Friday, August 20, 2004

Early Word on We3 -- I received this e-mail from a friend who shall remain anonymous, because I didn't ask before posting his opinions...but I thought they were worth reading. It's his reaction to reading a First Look copy of DC/Vertigo's new We3 by the always-stellar team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly.

Hello Alan, I am writing you to offer my opinion of We3 by Grant Morrison.

At first, I felt the book was a bit boring, as it seems to be mainly pictorial for the first half. But once the dialogue began, and the main characters were introduced, the book gained momentum quickly. By its end, I was eagerly anticipating the next issue. So, it was a good experience overall, and I think the book will appeal to the likes of us, but may seem confusing to others, for it is essentially an indie book, with only mainstream appeal in as much as it's being made by top mainstream creators.

Seaguy didn't seem to go over well with many, and I think this book may perplex people just the same. Most will buy it for the merits of the creative team, but then dismiss the book as an oddity they feel they can trust because of who made it. I don't think this book would succeed at all without Grant Morrisson and Frank Quitely working on it.

Morrison set out to write this book in order to create a western manga. Largely, I feel he has already accomplished this goal with just the first issue, especially by having several pages with sparse amounts of dialogue -- a staple of manga style comics. The only difficulty I see with this approach is resolving the rather expanded format of Japanese comics with the space limitations of doing a three book western-length mini. The plot, too, is very manga like, but with western overtones. You'll see what I mean when you encounter the scenes in the laboratory and so forth. Last, but not least, is the presence of weird robots. What's more manga than that?

Anyway, check it out, and I hope to see what your review is like online.

I'm definitely picking up We3 next Wednesday, and after Seaguy, I am eager to see what Morrison (and Quitely) have up their sleeves.

Best of the Year 2000-2003 -- Up now in the commentary section are my first four year-end "Best Of" columns, the first three (2000-2002) written for Comic Book Galaxy, 2003 written back when I was running the ADD Blog. You can view them individually here: 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000.

A Dark Day Descends -- The departure of Sean Collins from the Comics Blogosphere means it's lost its sharpest and most unique voice, and one of its very best critics.

I am comforted by the knowledge that his writing will be available elsewhere, very soon, and that he'll even be getting properly rewarded for it now, but I sure am going to miss his unpredictable and utterly unique voice.

For a sample of that voice, re-visit Sean's Eightball #23 review right here at Comic Book Galaxy. There are people who think there are no comics critics on the internet. With Sean's blog coming to an end, they're unfortunately that much closer to correct now. Good luck, Sean, and please do keep in touch.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Kochalka, Great Artists and Reviews -- Those three elements do intersect, in my mind, but they're also the topic of my three latest postings to Comic Book Galaxy:

Also, scroll down one entry right here on this very page for Chris Allen's response to Scott Tipton's take on DC's Identity Crisis.

Finally, we're still looking for help with the financial crunch we're currently experiencing. Go to the main page and scroll down to see how you can help if you enjoy Comic Book Galaxy, and watch this space for a fundraising auction we're putting together. You're gonna have a chance to get some great reads and rare items and show your support for Comic Book Galaxy at the same time. I should have news on that within the next few days.

Chris Allen on Identity Crisis -- Chris Allen asked me to post this to the blog...

Courtesy of John Jakala's blog, I see Scott Tipton has unsurprisingly weighed in on Identity Crisis in his normally uncontroversial but entertaining Comics 101 column. I say "unsurprisingly" because I know Scott and how nostalgic he is -- he works for a toy company. Here's what he says:

"The biggest problem I have with the story is that, dramatically, it's still something of a cheat. The reason the murder of Sue Dibny is so shocking is because of the emotional investment that longtime readers like myself have in the character, thanks to the fine work of others, and to first cash in on that for shock value by brutally murdering her, and then to taint the older appearances by inserting this horribly degrading assault years into her backstory, making it hard to re-read those appearances without recontextualizing them through the prism of this brutalization, seems to me at best a cheap and lazy manner in which to generate an emotional response in the reader, and at worst an outright slap in the face to all of those writers and artists who came before you. Without cashing in on the readers' investment in Sue Dibny, it's hard to say that the story would have any impact at all. As the late great Mark Gruenwald said, 'Every character is somebody's favorite.' You shouldn't kill them off lightly, or worse, ruin their old appearances in retrospect."

There's a lot that's wrong with this, much as I like Scott. The very fact that a few (DeMatteis/Giffen and...?) have made Sue Dibny likeable instead of the dishrag cipher most superhero gal pals are is the VERY REASON TO use her in such a dramatic, tragic way. I'm sure some fans complained when Frank Miller made ditzy arm candy Karen Page into a junkie whore in DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN, and those who recognized the quality of the story quite rightly ignored these people. Drama doesn't have to apologize to you. There's little shocking or interesting or dramatic about the rape and murder of a character you've never even cared about. I mean, who would be acceptable as a replacement for Sue? Fire? Ice Maiden? Amanda Waller? They're someone's favorites, too, I'm sure, and when should that ever enter into a creative decision? Every superhero writer working today builds upon what others have done with the same characters. I don't see any indication that Sue was killed off "lightly"; certainly the whole sequence leading up to the murder was about reminding readers why Ralph and Sue had such a great relationship. The real "cheat" here is in calling Rader's creative decision one that was made "lightly", when any writer knows you have to "kill your darlings" and not let your own affection for a character get in the way of telling a gripping story. As far as ruining old appearances for a reader, that just seems like a hangup Scott and other readers need to work out. I don't honestly care that much that Chris Claremont and other X-writers seem to be erasing everything Grant Morrison did with the X-Men, because I still have these great hardcovers to read and can ignore the stuff I don't like. That someone would now go read some 70s DETECTIVE COMICS Elongated Man story and now think, "but...but Sue shouldn't be smiling here--She was ruh-ruh-raped!" is just bizarre and sad to contemplate.

"Still, even though I disagree with the decision, I have to admit that the story is gripping and well-told, and at least DC isn't reveling in the murder and torture of its characters the way Marvel is nowadays, with the gleeful stripmining of the proud, four-decade-spanning Avengers heritage (complete with a ghoulish 'check-'em-off-as-they-die' chart at the Marvel Web site - no thanks, Marvel, I don't need to pay that close attention as you disembowel my childhood), all so they can replace the team with a slapped-together mishmash of top-selling Marvel characters that have little to do with the Avengers concept. Feh."

Yeah, like DC didn't ever do anything so ghoulish as, oh, I dunno, have readers vote on an 800-number whether Jason Todd should live or die. Good for them for taking the high road. I agree the death chart is really tasteless, though. "Slapped-together mishmash" seems unfair before we even see the results, however. It's interesting that Scott does agree that IDENTITY CRISIS is "gripping and well-told" when he doesn't like some of the events in it, which is a credit to Scott as a reader and commentator. After all, to paraphrase Alan Moore, part of being a writer is not giving readers what they WANT, but what they NEED. I'm not saying specifically that there was a "need" for Sue's rape and murder, but there was a need for a big story with actual consequences and real emotional impact, which IC delivers. -- Chris Allen

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Tuesday Galaxy Update -- Some good reviews of great stuff today...Chris Allen reviews Paul Hornschemeier's Return of the Elephant and Paul Auster's City of Glass, and Chris Hunter checks in with Quick Hits reviews of Awakenings #1-2, Small Gods #1, and Bloodhound #1-2. Click over to the front page for links.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Monday Morning Linkblogging -- Andrew Wheeler has an interesting take on Marvel's approach to (not) building up an enduring library over at Ninth Art. I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions, but it's definitely food for thought, and his analysis of the breakdown of X-Force/X-Statix is worth pondering.

Tim O'Neil breaks new ground in his Identity Crisis #3 review. You have to see it to believe it.

Finally, I have posted an expanded and rewritten edition of my Essential Graphic Novels article, and Nick Capetillo has kicked off The Grant Morrison Project here at Comic Book Galaxy. Stop by the main page for links, and please read up on our current call for support and consider helping out if you enjoy Comic Book Galaxy.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Sunday Briefing -- Hey, how ya doing? As I write this, it's nearly 7 o'clock in the morning, Sunday morning, and I'm working on seemingly ten different things at once.

I've finished polishing up the code for a new column that will debut here tomorrow at Comic Book Galaxy, the return of yet another Galaxy alumnus who will be focusing on one of the most exciting writers in comics with a multi-part look at the writer's entire career (or damn near to it). That'll be tomorrow. As will my next big article, which I finished writing yesterday, a revision of a piece from a couple of years ago, greatly rewritten and expanded, with new images to enhance the piece. So that's Monday.

I just now finished editing Chris Hunter's incredible trancript of my October, 2001 interview with James Kochalka, which is now available in the Galaxy's interviews section in either text or MP3 format. Editing Chris's transcript (and thanks, Chris!), I was really taken back to that time, just a month after 9/11, and I really enjoyed seeing how James and I got a good discussion going out of issues of terrorism, cartooning, and his music and comics careers. It's a fun interview, whether you read or download and listen to it. Check it out.

I am halfway through writing a new article that came out of a discussion on the Comic Book Galaxy Forum, so keep an eye out for that probably Tuesday or Wednesday.

So it's been a busy weekend of writing and editing; on the schedule today is some time with my son as my wife and daughter go school-clothes shopping. I have no idea what the day will bring us, but it's not even 7 AM yet and I feel like I've accomplished quite a lot already.

11:00 AM Update: Finished an 1100 word freelance writing assignment for publication this morning too; man, I'm feeling freaking prolific this weekend.

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