Friday, March 05, 2004

 
The Morning After -- It's been just about five years now since I started writing about comics online, and yesterday was as fascinating and exciting a day to mark that occasion as I could have hoped for. The Five Questions for Alan Moore piece brought a 400 percent increase in unique visitors, and as I tracked back where they were clicking in from, it was interesting to me to see how many of the message board posts said things like "I hate to link to Doane's blog, but..."

I'm not blind to my reputation, although it is a little disorienting to even realize that I have one. But I'm grateful to all who linked to the piece, and further to everyone who read the interview. Just about every last bit of credit has to go to Alan Moore himself, whose willingness to share both his time and insights gives pause. I think a lot of his thoughtfulness and humility comes shining through in the interview, and he really provides a great example of how a creator should approach not only their work but their efforts to promote and discuss it.

At least one message board poster asked "Who's next?" in regard to the Five Questions, and luckily I do still have some ideas in that regard. Yesterday was a high-water mark in many ways, and there's a strong temptation to say "Glad you enjoyed the show, folks! Good night and drive safely!" after such an exciting and well-received event. But the show will go on, after I take a couple of days to continue recovering from this respiratory whatever-it-is and hopefully resume my regular blogging schedule.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

 
ADD Central -- Stop by the new ADD Central Delphi forum if you'd like to discuss comics, blogging or anything else that's on your mind.

 
Baby Got Feedback -- Firstly, thanks to everyone who either wrote me privately or posted a note in their blog about how much they enjoyed yesterday's Five Questions for Dave Sim. Special thanks to Dave Fiore who suggested this particular 5Q in the first place.

Second, here's an e-mail I received early this morning that really made my day:

Hello Alan,

A quick shout out of thanks to you for urging folks to read Palomar. I've
read comic books and graphic lit for years yet had never once cracked open
Love and Rockets. My loss: Palomar was indeed great.

Thanks to your insistence, I convinced the book club that my boyfriend and I
belong to read it for our latest book (others have included The Corrections,
The Left Hand of Darkness and When We Were Orphans). The group loved it.
The majority of the group (well, all other than me really) hadn't opened a
comic book since they were children and were pleasantly surprised to say the
least.

We also enjoyed a delicious homemade Mexican dinner replete with handmade
tortillas, skirt steak mole, Margaritas, and these delicious chocolate bars
with cinnamon and ancho chiles. No babosas though unfortunately!

Thanks for the heads up. I may not agree with everything you say, but damn,
if you haven't made for interesting and informative reading. Your blog is a
treasure to the comics community.

Ariel


You might not realize it, but those of us who spend our time writing about comics really do love to hear about it when we've turned you on to new stuff, so thanks to Ariel for the kind comments, and to everyone reading this, if you end up liking something because you read a recommendation of it somewhere, you should drop a line to the critic in question and let them know. It's extremely gratifying to know when you've made a difference, and Ariel's note certainly brightened my day.

 
March of Comics -- It's too late to pre-order 'em, but Previews Review has a rundown of this month's expected new releases, and I bet if you have a savvy retaier, he could still track down most of what you ask for off the list anyway.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

 
Cerebus Reflections -- Bruce Baugh offers up some considered insights into Cerebus. Good stuff.

 
By The Time I Get to Cipital -- My bout of bicipital tendonitis has recurred after a couple of years of relative quiet. In layman's terms, my arm feels like it's being ripped out of the socket. Thankfully, this incident is much less severe than the previous one, but it's still extremely distracting and occasionally very painful.

This, anyway, is why there were no reviews yesterday -- I just couldn't wrap my brain around that task over the weekend. I would strongly recommend Dennis Eichhorn's Real Stuff TPB as one of the best graphic novels I've read recently, though. My wife and I also watched Thirteen over the weekend, and while it was a bit more "Lifetimey" than I was expecting, it was well-acted and worth a look.

Later this week, the long-promised interview with the best writer ever to work in comics. I think we'll eschew the 5Q format for this one, as there's just too much good stuff to pare it down that much.


 
Hard Time is Hard to Read -- I guess I wasn't the only one that hated the first issue of DC's Hard Time. Previews Review's Christopher Butcher:

The first issue of this was terrible. Anyone whoís ever seen an episode of LAW & ORDER can see right through this piece of crap. I feel bad for artist Brian Hurtt; this script really didnít deserve his lovely art, and his lovely art really didnít deserve the creepy pastel colour scheme that attempted at every turn to rob it of its charm. Avoid.

Monday, March 01, 2004

 


Dave Sim -- I first started reading Cerebus in its first two or three years, when Sim was casting off his Conan/BWS influence and beginning to explore a deeper sociopolitical sphere, reaching creatively but always staying funny no matter how complex the series became. Over time I lost touch with comics -- pretty much all of them -- including Cerebus. Nearly three decades later, Sim is just days away from fulfilling his promised 300 issue goal, and Sim has become a polarizing force among comics readers, some of whom continue to love Sim's work, others who are disturbed or angered by his outspoken, iconoclastic views on sex, politics and religion. I had a hard time trying to come up with Five Questions to sum up a very complex creator and his three decades in funnybooks, but he was extremely cooperative and I think his answers represent him well.

In just a few weeks the goal you've worked toward for decades -- 300 issues of Cerebus -- will be realized. As you look back over your time spent creating this landmark series, what do you think were your biggest creative successes in the series, and was there anything you wish you had conveyed better or differently to the reader?

I'm not sure that I had any creative success in the series. The biggest potential creative success, I think, will be the integration of large blocks of text into a comic book story. Certainly Steve Gerber pioneered the use of text with his "Dreaded Deadline Doom" issue of Howard the Duck, but that was really a replacement for formal comic book pages, not an integration with them. Personally, I'm not sure if it's a success or a failure. A lot would depend on how much you think a creative work has to have a pleasing effect the first time through. I think it takes a number of readings of Jaka's Story to come to the conclusion that it functions as a coherent unit. The first time through the text is just off-putting, an impediment when what you want to do is read the actual comics.

The biggest success I could hope for is to have made a place for large, self-contained graphic novels in the comic book medium, as opposed to open-ended, iconic, trademark-based creativity. No sequels, no prequels. Beginning, middle and end.

What was the biggest challenge you faced over the course of the 300 issues, and what would you say was the prime creative engine that kept you moving forward?

The biggest challenge was resisting the lure of conventional life -- marriage, children, family, friends and other frivolous diversions -- and to basically live my life on paper for the better part of twenty-six years. Fornication was the most problematic. I traded a lot for the fornications I participated in. The prime creative engine -- at least until I discovered God -- was the awareness that anything less than actually finishing the 300 issues would make the book a failure. Literally, "300 or Bust."

Two of the best interviews I've ever read were the ones you did with Chester Brown recently, and the one you did with Alan Moore a few years ago in regard to From Hell. What did you take away from those and similar experiences, and how important do you think it is for cartoonists to discuss creative and other issues with each other?

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the dialogues with Alan and Chester that much. I found that extended, exhaustive, on-paper communication helps reinforce what a marvelous tapestry human experience is. When someone else shapes as exact a description of their own beliefs and ideas as Alan and Chester are -- it helps you define your own beliefs more clearly and to avoid the generalized "I don't know where you're wrong, but I disagree with you" which seems the universal lowest common denominator in a world gone mad with political correctness.

I think it's important for the sorts of cartoonists for whom thinking is an important part of life. Thinking is very much out of favour in our society, so it isn't just a matter of cartoonists, I don't think. I think the vast majority of cartoonists and people in general would "strongly agree or somewhat strongly agree" (as the pollsters put it) with the view, "It is a bad thing to think too much." Needless to say, I strongly disagree. I hope I've given aid, comfort and reinforcement to the minority viewpoint which, I think, is going to be under seige for some time to come. We don't want to pass a law forcing people to think, but we do hold rigorously to our opinion that thinking is a good thing and that you can never have too much of it.

Your views on the differences between males and females has certainly had an impact on the way people perceive both you and your work. How would you say the rather public development of your philosophies impacted Cerebus, and yourself?

How my views on gender relationships impacted Cerebus and myself is impossible to say, because I don't have a "control group" Cerebus and Dave Sim who went through the entire 300 issues without once raising gender issues. That hypothetical Cerebus and Dave Sim might have been wildly successful or they might have long ago vanished into obscurity. In the former case, I have made a terrible, life-diminishing error in judgment in addressing gender issues in my work. In the latter case, I have saved myself from the yawning face of the abyss in addressing gender issues in my work. I'll just have to see how it all hatches out and try to preserve Cerebus as best I can.

What would you say the most important thing individuals should realize/study/discover in order to make peace with and live more ideally with themselves, humanity, and God?

The five pillars of Islam: Acknowledgment of God's sovereignty everywhere and over everyone and over all things, giving alms to the poor until it hurts and then giving some more, praying five times a day, fasting on a regular basis and in the sacred month of Ramadan, and (if the United States and other freedom-loving people are able to overturn the corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia in our lifetimes) making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once if you can afford it.

I can vouch for the efficacy of the first four of those five.

My thanks to Dave Sim for taking the time to answer the Five Questions, and congratulations on reaching his 300-issue milestone.

 
Monday Reading -- I notice Tony Isabella is back on the clock as of today, with his Online Tips. Tony pays well-deserved tribute to Harvey Pekar, mentions my all-time favourite Daredevil story, and much more, in one of his stronger columns. Give it a look. If you scroll down a line or three, you'll find my Five Questions for Johnny Ryan, and below that The Week in Comics.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

 


Johnny Ryan -- Angry Youth Comics almost defies description,
but I always find it funny, defiant and outrageous. Its creator took the
Five Questions and took 'em like a man.


What's the value of anger in youth?

It's always been the natural way of things. Young
people reach a certain age when they look around at
their world and see how boring and shitty it is. They
want to destroy it. All the great movements in art
were a result of this.

Is there any subject you've ever considered doing a strip on but decided
it was too controversial to tackle?


Usually, if I second guess an idea as being too
controversial then I know for sure that I should do
it. I think part of a "comedian's" job is to get
people riled up.

What's the last really disgusting thing you did or saw in your personal
life?


My girlfriend's brother came to visit last night and
brought along a "co-worker." The "co-worker" smelled
like ass so bad I thought I was going to faint. Before
he left he left a big black loogy in my sink.

Who would you say are your biggest influences, and what did they
contribute to your style?


There's a lot, but I'll try and comment on a few.

Robert Crumb: Probably my main influence. His
sketchbooks are filled with lots of funny, wacky and
terrifying stuff. If people think I'm disgusting and
retarded they need to read this shit. This guy's the
master!

Peter Bagge: The best writer in comics ever. His
dialogue always seems so natural, sharp and real. I
try to aspire to that. I also worked on a couple
issues of the now deceased SWEATSHOP, so I'm sure a
few of his "tricks" rubbed off on me.

Kaz: This guy's been doing his weekly strip UNDERWORLD
for over 10 years and it's still fantastic. I love
his stubble-covered urban landscapes. When I'm drawing
the garbage strewn all over Loady McGee's shack I
usually use Kaz strips for reference.

Ernie Bushmiller: NANCY is probably my favorite comic
strip ever. I love the way it looks. I love the way
all the gags are completely retarded and simple. It's
just the way a comic should be.

Gary Panter: This guy's a madman. I love the way he
combines high-brow and low-brow art. I recently got
one of his mini-comics in which Henry "The Asshole"
Webb is trying to escape from a crazed squirrel that
really really wants his "nuts". It's such a brilliant
yet simple idea. A tale as old as time. Man vs.
Nature. I wish I thought of it. I often find myself
reading his stuff and thinking that.

Some others are Dan Clowes, Charles Schulz, Tony
Millionaire, The 3 Stooges, Sam Henderson, Ivan
Brunetti, VIP, Little Rascals, Mad Magazine, etc...

What do you see as "The Johnny Ryan Legacy" to the
comics artform?


Comics don't have to be serious, meaningful,
award-winning objects of art. They can be infantile,
ugly, retarded and stupid.

Stop by Johnny Ryan's website
and get a load of Loady.

 

The Week in Comics -- Here's a look at stuff arriving in comics shops Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004. If nothing else, at least I am getting off cheap this week.

ABSENCE OF INK

FORLORN FUNNIES #5 (MR) $10.95 -- America's best funnybook, this time half-forlorn and half-funny. Creator Paul Hornschemeier's one-man tour de force of cartooning, and the first issue since Mother, Come Home concluded. Don't be left behind.

AVATAR

MARK MILLAR'S THE UNFUNNIES #2 (Of 4) (MR) $3.50 -- I was impressed by the thematic dissonance presented in the first issue, note-perfect funny animal cartooning accompanied by dark perversity and a hint of a greater oddness. Definitely interested in seeing where it's all going.

DC COMICS

SWAMP THING #1 (MR) $2.95 -- For the first time since Alan Moore left, I'll be giving Swamp Thing a try. Maybe I'm just in the mood, or maybe it was the preview I read of the first few pages of this issue, but my curiousity is raised.

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