Monday, February 25, 2013

diary of a guttersnipe 02/25/2013: a woman is a woman

by Shawn Starr

Welcome back! I took a week off but to make up for it, i bring you JENNIFER LAWRENCE OSCAR GIF'S!!!!


Batman #13-17 (DC)
by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Fco Plascencia

I like that the function of these issues is to walk through all of DC's currently in print Joker stories. It's difficult to reference issues or collections that are out of print because then some people can't buy them, and then they won't get how awesome your references are, and then DC won't get a spike in trade sales. Unlike that jackass Grant Morrison and his bat-mite bullshit, Scott Snyder knows which Joker books you need to read. The ones you can find at your local Barnes and Nobles, not the ones you find in your local shop's back issue bins or eBay. Because fuck back issues bins! Scott Snyder is a real fan! He knows what's legit, and back issue bins are definitely not bat-certified legit.

Justice League of America #1 (DC)
by Geoff Johns, David Finch, Jeromy Cox, Sonia Oback

Exposition: The Comic!

(Also i’m not sure if Finch drew the characters this way, or if it was the colorist, but every other character looks like a terrible 3-D model that got photo-shopped onto the page)

Appleseed, Book One (Dark Horse)
by Masamune Shirow

I like that this book just drops you in the middle of a world, it does not feel the need to spend five pages dumping exposition, it just kind of parcels out information when it feels like it. This technique works well for the majority of the book, except at around the 2/3rd mark when a conspiracy starts to unfold. This conspiracy is a secret at the heart of the utopia our heroes find themselves living in (following a post-global war), that gets kind of confusing and convoluted very fast in comparison to everything else in the story. The art, and in particular the action scenes and backgrounds in this book are pretty breathtaking though, so the conspiracy thing is not that big a deal, i also feel like it’ll make more sense as the series progresses.

FF #3 (Marvel)
by Matt Fraction, Mike Allred, Laura Allred

'FF' is the first instance of a book that i have been a reader of that has been inadvertently harmed by Marvel's insistence on putting books out on a bi-weekly schedule.

But, 'FF' is not bi-weekly! You will say, and you would be correct.

'FF' is indeed not bi-weekly, it’s regular old monthly, but every other major Marvel book is (and to make matters worse, 'Avengers' is near weekly). This creates a problem where after prolonged exposure (almost a year and a half or more), every book which comes out from Marvel on a “regular” schedule seems incredibly late. 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' was bi-monthly and felt like it, 'FF' is monthly and now because of Marvel's insane shipping habits, feels like it’s bi-monthly.

This lead me to completely forget that this comic existed until i moved a stack of comics and found it underneath a stray issue of '2001: A Space Odyssey'. It’s not that this book is bad, it has Mike Allred art and better than normal Matt Fraction writing (not 'Casanova', but not 'Invincible Iron Man'), I just keep forgetting it exists.

I swear, this bi-weekly shit is a cancer eating away at every facet of their line.

Captain America #4 (Marvel) 
by Rick Remender, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White, Lee Loughride

This is a weird fucking comic. 
Stray thoughts on 'Holy Terror'

Holy Terror (Legendary)
by Frank Miller

. It has been about a year and a half since 'Holy Terror' was released to what I'd call less than stellar reviews. It was labeled racist, xenophobic, revisionist wish fulfillment, etc. Those thoughts weren't helped by Miller's press statements calling the work "a piece of propaganda...bound to offend just about everybody". I don't buy this line of  thought though, even from Miller this description rings hollow. Removed from his     media campaign, and Miller's own form of press propaganda 'Holy Terror' reads like a man attempting to actualize a facebook rant, but constantly adding footnotes and asides that ultimately deflate his argument, it is ineffectual by design.  

. What i still can't grasp while reading 'Holy Terror' is how to read it, it is one of those works which you could easily find in a issue of 'RAW' or a Klan magazine, and it would work well enough in both context's.  
. Nothing in 'Holy Terror' is more offensive than Miller's previous work '300'.  
. '300' is a xenophobic retelling of how a fascist warrior society beat back the hordes of Persia while the gays in Athens got lubed up. While the basic story is true to some extent, Miller chooses to highlight the most extreme and simple minded aspects of each player to glorify (in the case of the Spartans) or demonize (Persians) while adding in revisionist flare (which is a pervasive problem with historical writing, and not     unique to Miller).  
. While 'Holy Terror' also deals with similar elements, a fascist hero, a "Persians" type of enemy, and     historical revisionism, the difference is that 'Holy Terror' is a failure as pure propaganda, it was released well past the backlash on Neo-Conservatism was in full effect, and the patriotism 9-11 sparked had dissipated. No one read 'Holy Terror' and thought we should invade Qatar, unlike the lingering effects of '300' and the "Spartan" mystique which has proved effective in both promoting general masculinity and also serving as a figurehead for the Greek fascist movement (similar to what Moore/Lloyd's 'V For Vendetta' did for leftist movements).

. Miller is (at least in the last decade of his career) a satirist first and foremost. It does not always work, but 'Holy Terror' has to be recognized in this context.  

. 'Holy Terror' is a failure as pure propaganda because of Miller's inability to make one identify with The Fixer or his tactics, there is no moment when the reader cheers or their hearts swell with pride, the only real character Miller humanizes in the book is a young female suicide bomber. A simple swig of beer and a wish for paradise leave you cursing the institution which raised her, not thinking The Fixer is right (unless that wasn't the point).  

. The Irish Catholic who builds an upside down bomb strikes me as Miller (who is of Irish Catholic     heritage) acknowledging his own ineffectualness. He's still going to set that bomb off, it's just not going to do the damage as he wanted, it was directed the wrong way.

. 'Holy Terror' is one of the best looking books of the decade.
Suehiro Maruo showcase

In between making me sick to my stomach (SO MUCH EYEBALL LICKING!), Suehiro Maruo does some beautiful collage work. 

images are from 'DDT' which can be purchased here


I have now seen every "Death Race" movie, so i got that going for me (The remake/sequels -  notwithstanding their agitating post-Michael Bay ‘we have to have a cut every 2 seconds during every action scene no matter what’ shooting style that every director decided was how you shoot action scenes - are actually strangely watchable films. Or at least watchable between the hours of 2am-4am while i’m trying to fall asleep.).

Fantagraphics put up a video preview of 'The Adventures of Jodelle'. That is one handsome looking book, especially for an artist making his first “major” US debut.

The Steve Bissette interview on Inkstuds was very interesting. Part One. Part Two.

“New” publisher Ryan Sands announced the first issue of his curated series 'Frontier' will feature work by Uno Moralez. If you’re not familiar with Uno Moralez’ work (/ know who he is and why this is a big deal) here’s an interview he did with Sean Collins and a link to a comic/gif/something he did. Moralez is one of those artists, even more so than Negron, that has taken the structure of Tumblr and Internet culture and ran with it into a niche that it can’t really be removed from. I’m intrigued how he, and Sands, approach print.
Speaking of Negron, someone should buy me this.

Friday, February 15, 2013

1987 and all that 001: space is infinite!

by Matt Derman

Hello and welcome to the first of a new feature that I’m very excited to be writing for the awesome dudes here at The Chemical Box. I was born in 1987, and through a combination of inheriting comics from my dad and randomly being interested in titles from back in the day, I have ended up with an inordinate number of issues published that year. So I’m going to go back and examine this stuff one series at a time, in order to eventually get a larger sense of what my first year on the planet was like in the medium I so adore today.  Starting below with a piece on Silver Surfer...

Silver Surfer (v. 3) #1-6 (Marvel)
by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Joe Rubinstein, John Workman

I love Silver Surfer, but I haven’t read all that many stories in which he was the star. I never followed his title when it was current, and only obtained the 1987 issues a few months ago at a Black Friday sale. I did read his origin story as a kid though, and ever since I have been drawn to the idea of a man riding through the universe, out in the open, tapping into untold cosmic power. It’s a nice raw superhero concept that won me over immediately and stuck around even without a big library of Surfer-centric comic books.

What luck then, that Steve Englehart and company seem to have targeted the beginning of their run at just such a reader as me. The series plays up Silver Surfer’s space-traveling, ultra-powerful aspects, but is also a deliberate exploration of who he is as a man, a hero, and a character. I suppose my view of the Surfer will now be forever shaded by Englehart’s & co's version, but so much of it was in line with what I’d imagined and hoped for already that I doubt anything significant has shifted.

'Silver Surfer' #1 opens with a five-page celebration of the endlessness of space and the Surfer’s unique place within it. The rest of that issue focuses on him getting past the barrier Galactus had long ago constructed to keep him trapped on Earth. Once free, he not only has the ability to travel the stars as he pleases (theoretically, anyway), but his Power Cosmic is fully unharnessed for the first time in ages. It’s an ideal status quo, and a smart opening move.

From there, Englehart writes the book as equal parts sci-fi soap opera and interstellar superhero action story. It allows Silver Surfer to battle foes appropriate for his power level without disconnecting him from his grounded, human side. Knock down drag out fights with the Elders of the Universe are punctuated by melodramatic stories of lost and new love and/or political intrigue, all built around a protagonist who’s at odds with himself. He says he wants to be free, but his actions don’t line up with that, as he continues to get involved in the affairs of others. He promises to defend his home planet of Zenn-La when needed, primarily because he’s still in love with Shalla-Bal, now the unavailable empress of his former people. He no longer sees Zenn-La as home, but he can’t completely break free of it's hold, either. Escaping from one world to be bound by another, the Surfer is never as free (or content) as he wants.

Even in the voids of space, he is attacked by the Elders of the Universe, who’re planning to wipe out the current reality in order to create a new one where they can live like gods (or, as they describe it, like “a race of Galactuses”). Englehart gives these already nigh unkillable beings true immortality through a trick they play on Death, which opens the door for their existence-erasing scheme. Part of me would like to see them succeed, if only so Englehart could write a book about their lives as the most powerful beings in a fresh new universe. But it’s at least as much fun to watch Silver Surfer struggle to defeat them, battling with confidence and incredible might every time despite not always defeating and never entirely destroying his opponents. Over the course of three head-to-head confrontations with three different Elders, we get to see the full range of the Power Cosmic, and ultimately learn the depths of the Surfer’s resourcefulness when he realizes he cannot beat them in straight combat. An impressive and intelligent hero, you start to think he might be just the guy to keep reality intact.
One reason I so enjoyed this plot-line was Marshall Rogers’ designs for the new Elders. Many of them were well established in the Marvel Universe prior to this series, but when Silver Surfer and his companion/love interest Mantis find a secret meeting of the entire group, there are several previously unseen members there, and Rogers gives them each a distinct and memorable look. The Trader resembles a troll doll with its limbs stretched into sticks; The Obliterator is a square and bulky oaf covered in square and bulky weaponry; and The Astronomer is like a cyborg Greek philosopher with a cape. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that I liked all of these characters’ appearances, but they certainly captured my attention and stuck in my mind.

Rogers’ work overall is an excellent fit for this series. He can do the stranger, more outlandish stuff described above, but not all of his figures are so bizarre or exaggerated. He mixes the alien with the familiar, the ridiculous with the realistic, bolstering what Englehart is doing in his scripts already: telling sci-fi adventure with grounded emotional narratives. Silver Surfer looks just as natural unleashing his powers against the Elders as he does contemplatively pining for the life he once knew. Rogers is comfortable in both realms, which is necessary for the series’ goals.

He is also one of the most reliable artists I have ever seen, at least for these first six chapters. Every character is immediately recognizable and consistent. There are no overly crowded or confusing panels, no poor layout choices, nothing that seems rushed or unfinished. It may not be groundbreaking artwork, but it is unwavering and always clear. It must help that Rogers doubles as colorist, and I’m sure Joe Rubinstein’s inks deserve much of the credit for this visual solidity as well. Any time a comic can be in the hands of only one or two artists, it adds a consistency that makes each new issue that much easier to slip into. 'Silver Surfer' has a sizable cast, from the Elders to the people of Zenn-La to Mantis to the Kree and Skrull and so on. Rogers & Rubinstein handle them expertly, and have no trouble capturing the enormity and grandeur of outer space. Oh, yeah, and they do a damn fine job with the title character, too.

As a protagonist, Silver Surfer is an odd duck here. His victories are only ever semi-sweet if not bittersweet, and despite the scope of his powers he can’t find a way to give himself the life he says he wants. And though he’s never dishonest with the reader, he’s not entirely trustworthy either, because he is often dishonest with himself. Though what he professes to desire, even internally, is the independence to surf the stars alone uninhibited, what he chooses for himself instead is to fight against the oldest beings in existence. Delaying his personal goals indefinitely out of super-heroic duty, he gets caught up in not only a massive battle for reality, but also a new romance with Mantis. The more he commits to taking on the Elders, the harder it is to believe that he’ll ever be able to ride his board into the depths of space as he wishes.

He’s a singular being in an infinite universe, which is simultaneously freeing and restrictive. That dichotomy is key, because more than any other theme, the elusiveness of freedom is the heart of this series. The first issue is titled 'Free', yet even after the sixth (War), Silver Surfer is not dramatically freer than before. His romantic feelings, sense of honor, and even outright arrogance keep him tethered to people and places he claims he’d like to leave behind. I would not have expected to be such a fan of this self-contradictory take, because what has always appealed to me about him is the notion of traversing the cosmos unrestrained, and the thought of a Surfer who can’t quite achieve that is frustrating. That said, even while they examine his inability to break his various bonds, Englehart, Rogers, and Rubinstein include so much large-scale cosmic action that everything I wanted to see was present, just mixed in with elements I never anticipated. I have no sense of where this creative team stands in relation to others who have tackled Silver Surfer before or since, but they highlighted all my favorite facets and pleasantly surprised me with new pieces as well. These are quality comic books that hold up easily after 25 years, presenting an interpretation of the character that is boiled down and layered all at once.

On to 1988!

Monday, February 11, 2013

diary of a guttersnipe 02/11/2013: one sec alaska

by Shawn Starr

Didn't read many comics this week because i hate comics. That or nothing came out that i cared about. Also, snow.....a lot of snow.


Hawkeye #7 (Marvel)
by Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Matt Hollingsworth

'Hawkeye' #7 is such a made for TV special rehash of [Insert Movie About A Natural Disaster That Shows The Triumph Of The Human Condition] and every other feel good movie that it borders on parody, each story is soaked in "We're New Yorkers and we are TUFF!!!!" that it turns into a Lifetime film about surviving something...anything....and thinking your better for it. Even though several boroughs lost all contact with the police, power wasn't restored for weeks, and gas was rationed, i guess everyone is better for it. Except those people who died. They didn't tuffin up. They just stiffened up.

But! At least a single Marvel writer wanted to talk about it, and donate his royalties to charity. That is nice. Even though his multi-million (billion?) dollar corporate overlords take credit for the issue, while contributing nothing, just like when Gene Colan died, or when those offensive 9-11 Comics where Dr.Doom cried were published, along with whatever other bullshit that they pump out.

Avengers #4 (Marvel)
by Jonathan Hickman, XXXX Kubert (i don't know which one of the Kuberts' it was...nor do i care), Frank D'Armata

No Opena, No thanks.

Satan Soldiers (Self-published)
by Tom Scioli

Scioli drawing an evil superman comic ala Kyle Baker, colored like Lynn Varley on 'The Dark Knight Strikes Again', and writing it as something that should be getting released at BCGF makes 'Satan Soldiers' one cool ass comic.


I've been reading a lot of Simon Hanselmann Tumblr comics ('Girl Mountain'  / 'Truth Zone' ) recently, it centers around a group of stoners: Megg, Mogg, and Owl fucking around in a small Australian town. While 'Girl Mountian' focuses more so on the stoner aspects, along with mild autobiography, 'Truth Zone' takes the same casts and uses them to criticize and promote several alt-comics creators and works in a way which is probably only funny to the people who read Frank Santoro's Comics Workbook Tumblr (which is to say not many, but i am thankfully among the few).

Here's a strip from 'Girl Mountain': 

And one from 'Truth Zone':

This week's Comic Books ARE BURNING IN HELL led me to read 'Ultra Gash Inferno' (along with a couple other Suehiro Maruo books) and try and figure out if a Ricky Lime was the same thing as a Shirley Temple. And if you know what 'Ultra Gash Inferno' or a Ricky Lime is you should understand how strange and amazing this episode was.

Jog on why he writes is a must read. I don't understand the train of thought that says talking about 'Heavy Metal' or '2000 AD' or Japanese niche porn, while ignoring the new Ware book is the same as trying to replace Clowes or Ware in the comics pantheon. Those books are covered forty ways from Sunday  Two god-damn critical stall-worth's (Gary Groth and Eddie Campbell) came out with 4,000+ word retorts to one guy saying he didn't think EC was the best thing ever created. What the fuck are they doing in their off-time? (Besides talking up Crumb and Spiegelman at every instance). I guess Gary Groth and Fantagraphics and The (print) Comics Journal are the only people allowed to discover new things. Because they are...older? Only speaking of the general consensuses "Greats" misses everything the general consensus might have ignored, a fact Groth probably should have learned based on the past ten years (or more) of Fantagraphics' publishing history.

And while mentioned here is Eddie Campbell on criticism and EC comics, and Ng Suat Tong's response.

a real conversation
Shawn Starr: Did you see that Sasha Grey movie? 
Joey Aulisio: Dude....I've seen every Sasha Grey movie.

I'm glad that Marvel offers a variant cover to every issue for all those people who like looking at little kids dressed up as superheroes. It's nice that they care.

Ales Kot is taking over 'Suicide Squad' which i hope turns out good, but i read enough about DC to know that they will fuck it up.

If you even mention not buying a comic because of its creators rampant homophobia then you sir are just like Joseph McCarthy...or those Salem Witch Hunt people...and you also hate freedom of speech. You fucking monster.

The Mindless Ones talks about 'Promethea'

Study Group has a Michael DeForge designed T-Shirt up for preorder.

Al Pacino everyone.