Friday, December 27, 2013

1987 and all that 020: x-mental

by Matt Derman

...reading comics from the year i was born!

Uncanny X-Men #213-224 (Marvel)
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jackson Guice, Marc Silvestri, Bob Wiacek, Dan Green, Glynis Oliver, Tom Orzechowski, et al.

Something that comes up a lot in X-Men comics is the idea of a mutant community, whether or not it exists and, if so, what it’s like or should be like. In these issues from 1987 though, Chris Claremont is less interested in that idea of group identity as he is in exploring what happens when a single person’s identity is threatened, stolen, or lost. The team’s shared objectives and attitudes are relatively stable. The X-Men get attacked directly a lot in this period, and constantly being on the defensive makes it easier to work together toward a common goal: survival. Yet while as a unit they’re fairly reliable, several individual members of the team have some sort of identity crisis during this run, from emotional and mental breakdowns to having their minds controlled to the even worse fate of poor Madelyne Pryor (see below). It’s not a theme that is openly discussed or always present, but there are pretty regular reminders in these comics that one’s sense of self is a fragile thing, and that the results of damaging or removing it can be severe for the person affected and everyone around them.

Though other, smaller problems pop up along the way, the X-Men’s primary opponents in these issues are the Marauders, a gang of evil mutants secretly working for Mr. Sinister. They go after not only the current X-Men, but their friends and former members as well, and the Marauders don’t limit themselves to strictly physical assaults. Their leader, Malice, is a bodiless psychic force that invisibly enters other people and takes control of them. At first, she uses this power to make several of the X-Men fight one another, but eventually Psylocke’s own psychic abilities combined with Storm’s willpower are able to temporarily defeat Malice. So instead of just body-jumping anymore, Malice sets up camp permanently in Polaris, who’s not even an active X-Man when this all goes down. But she’s still their friend, so having her become a foe but knowing she isn't in control of her own actions presents an especially difficult challenge for the heroes. Most of all Polaris’ boyfriend Havok, who pretty much falls to pieces when he sees that the woman he loves has been mentally hijacked by his enemies. Torn between his powerful affection for Polaris and his just-as-strong fury toward Malice, Havok breaks down.

Malice also does a number on Dazzler, the first person she inhabits and controls. Like Polaris, Dazzler isn't’t technically one of the X-Men at the time, trying instead to make a go at a music career. That dream is quickly cut short by Malice, even after she’s been driven out of Dazzler’s body, because the whole affair forces Dazzler to rejoin the X-Men rather than staying out on her own as an unguarded target for future Marauder attacks. So Dazzler becomes a superhero again, even though it’s not the life she’d choose for herself, and though she does it well and with great determination, it takes it's toll on her. She’s on edge, constantly second-guessing herself and losing her temper at the drop of her hat, acting rashly and arrogantly for no reason. The lifestyle thrust upon her is not one that is necessarily a good fit for her or that she enjoys. There’s some satisfaction to be gotten from doing good, but it’s not nearly the same as what she gets from singing and performing and doing all the other things she truly loves. Yet fighting alongside the X-Men is better than dying alone, so she sticks it out despite her unhappiness and emotional instability.

Both Havok and Dazzler see the lives they were trying to build suddenly and unexpectedly demolished, one personal and the other professional. They have to start from zero, trying to find meaning in the incessant violence and fear of life with the X-Men. Along similar but even more dramatic lines, Madelyne Pryor, not even a mutant but married to one, is put through absolute hell by the Marauders, only to end up, like Dazzler, with no options except to stay with the X-Men indefinitely for her own protection. After putting her in the hospital and stealing her baby, the Marauders go further and erase every trace of Madelyne’s life, making it so that, according to any and all available records, she never existed. With no way to prove who she is, and no real leads as to the whereabouts of her stolen child or her M.I.A. husband Cyclops, Madelyne’s situation is dire to say the least. She knows who she is, and so do the X-Men, but the rest of the world refuses to acknowledge it, making her a strange sort of non-entity. Powerless to change what has happened to her or to do anything that would significantly improve her future, Madelyne’s stuck, still alive but without a life. It’s torturous and hopeless and huge, driving her, quite understandably, to the point of nearly committing suicide.

Even Wolverine, the super-experienced, cool-as-a-cucumber veteran of the team, loses himself for a time. While investigating the scene of one of the Marauders’ many crimes, he picks up Jean Grey’s scent, the woman he loved unrequitedly for years before she died (it’s really Madelyne he smells, because she’s a clone of Jean, but nobody is aware of that yet). With all his painful memories of Jean flooding back to him all at once and out of nowhere, Wolverine is overwhelmed and freaks out completely, becoming the most animalistic version of himself, a being of pure instinct. It doesn't last for more than a few days before he snaps out of it, but Wolverine is the only X-Man to have this kind of breakdown due to his own senses betraying him, as opposed to the machinations of the story’s villains. Yes, the Maraduers are indirectly involved, since it is in searching for them that Wolverine goes nuts, but they don’t do it to him on purpose. It is his own already fragile and fractured psyche that shatters his self-control.

Not everyone in this book has their identity upturned like this. Both Longshot and Psylocke manage to avoid the kinds of personal crises their teammates have to deal with, for very different but equally logical reasons. Longshot is by nature a bit unpredictable, the token wildcard of the team. This is not to say he doesn't have a personality, but as an outsider in our world, he has a naiveté and curiosity that leave him on slightly less sure footing than the rest of the cast to begin with. Add to that his own ignorance of the exact workings of his luck-based superpowers and corresponding lack of control over them, and it becomes clear why messing with Longshot’s sense of self would be trickier and maybe less interesting than it is with everyone else. He’s already trying to figure out who he is and his place in this world, so there’s no need to introduce those dilemmas again.

As for Psylocke, she keeps her wits about her by virtue of being the X-Men’s resident telepath. She is their most useful defense against Malice, their communication system, and the most stable mind among them. It’s hard to be effective with psychic superpowers if you don’t have a good connection with your own mind, and Psylocke is nothing if not effective. The first issue of this run, 'Uncanny X-Men' #213, is all about Psylocke proving her worth by facing Sabretooth one-on-one and living to tell the tale. After that, she’s firmly cemented as the team’s sturdiest pillar, and it’s a role that suits her. She’s considerate, intelligent, self-reliant, and able to tap into the thoughts and insecurities of all her allies and, if needed, soothe them or bring them back down to Earth. With the other X-Men losing their grips to one degree or another, it’s important that the team have a rock, and Psylocke’s the perfect person to fill that slot.

The only X-Man I haven’t addressed—other than the handful of members who are comatose for all of these issues thanks to severe beatings from the Marauders—is Rogue. She also manages to avoid any serious loss of ego or sanity, but Rogue’s whole power set is based on her draining the abilities and personalities of others and absorbing them into herself. She’s a walking identity crisis even when she has her act together, because she’s always got the powers and psyche she permanently took from Ms. Marvel rattling around in her head in addition to her own. That’s never exacerbated by the events of this run, but it’s not assuaged at all either, so she fits in with the theme of the fragility of identity through the very concept of her character.

There are several sprawling, near-fatal fights between the X-Men and the Marauders, all of them scripted, choreographed, and drawn quite nicely. Both sides take some heavy beatings and have a few close calls over the course of the long-running conflict. But the more significant threat to the titular heroes is the vulnerability of their personal identities, the fine line between sanity and madness, confidence and doubt, of which the Marauders are smart and sadistic enough to take advantage. It’s not the high-powered, theatrical superheroics that hold the most danger and intrigue in these comics. It is the resulting melodramas the characters are put through where the real excitement is found, impactful depictions of people who have lost track of themselves but have to move forward with their lives anyway.

Friday, December 13, 2013

1987 and all that 019: x-mettle

...reading comics from the year i was born!

Uncanny X-Men #213-224 (Marvel)
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jackson Guice, Marc Silvestri, Bob Wiacek, Dan Green, Glynis Oliver, Tom Orzechowski, et al.

Earlier this year, the X-Men celebrated their 50th anniversary, so now seemed an appropriate time to go back and revisit the 1987 issues of 'Uncanny X-Men' for this column. This post will actually be the first of two devoted to the title, since it’s a fairly dense book with a lot going on, thanks in large part to Chris Claremont still being the writer at that time. His style may not be to everyone’s taste, but you can’t deny that the man is a great storytelling multitasker, able to have numerous threads of every length and thickness running through his comics simultaneously without bogging things down. That’s as true as ever in his X-Men stories from ’87, because for all their complicated concurrent plots, these comics do a damn fine job of keeping the two most significant narratives on track and weighted evenly. Next time, I’ll look at the more action-packed of these two storylines: the team’s ongoing struggle against the Marauders. Right now, though, I want to talk about the more intimate, engaging, and unusual plotline of a depowered Storm proving to herself and the reader what a noble and bad-ass hero she is, even without being “super.”

When this particular run of issues begins, Storm has already been robbed of her mutant abilities. She’s used to being non-powered by now, though not necessarily at peace with it. She’s still an X-Man through and through, and is in fact the team’s leader at this point, she has to deal with superhero dramas all the time despite not technically being a superhero herself anymore. It’s a lifestyle she chooses to keep up instead of having it thrust upon her like most other mutants, and that’s an admirable choice that makes sense for her character, but it also makes regaining her powers an appealing notion no matter how good she is without them. When all of your problems are nails, it’s mighty helpful to have a hammer around.

The desire to have those incredible powers again is brought to the fore by the first small story arc in which Storm is the central player. After being accidentally knocked unconscious by an out-of-control Wolverine, Storm wakes up imprisoned in the none-too-secure dungeon of some strange hunting lodge in the middle of the woods. She soon meets her captors, three superpowered WWII veterans named Crimson Commando, Stonewall, and Super Sabre, who kidnap people they deem criminals in order to hunt them for sport. Mistaking Storm for an arsonist because they find her passed out in a burned building, the trio of murderers pair her up with a teenaged drug addict/dealer whose boyfriend they have already killed, and give the two women a slight head start out of a weird blend of fairness and sadism. Unlike their usual prey though, Storm is determined, intelligent, and fit enough to cover a lot more ground than her pursuers anticipate, which allows her to set some traps and ambush them instead of merely fleeing. She’s also experienced enough in combat to actually hold her own when the time comes, even though her opponents all have enhanced abilities. They’re used to killing scared, confused criminals; she’s more than familiar with handling supervillains. So all of her moves catch them off guard while nothing they do surprises her in the least.

Though it’s a struggle to fully defeat them, Storm is always a step or two ahead of Crimson Commando, Stonewall, and Super Sabre (who obnoxiously don’t have a team name here, but do join Mystique’s Freedom Force later in the series). She manages to stop them without needing to kill them as they planned to do to her, and even talks them into turning themselves in. This story demonstrates how little Storm really needs her powers, but also reminds us why she still wants them and how undeniably useful they would be if she could get them back. It would've taken a few seconds at best for her to demolish all three villains if she’d been able to control the weather. Or heck, she could have just flown away first thing, since none of them had any means of following her in the sky. As impressive as she is with nothing but her wits at her disposal, some part of her brain no doubt spent the entire conflict wishing she could just snowstorm the bad guys into submission. She even openly pines for her old powers a few times. So once she’s free and back with her team, Storm sets out almost immediately to find a way to retrieve her lost abilities, beginning by finding the man who took them from her, Forge.

Once her search for Forge begins, it becomes Storm’s entire life, a distinct and wholly separate solo adventure she embarks on while the rest of the X-Men do their own thing. And with the exception of Wolverine playing a small role at the start and end, the story I described above about the three superhuman people-hunters was an all-Storm story too. She’s such an interesting character, extremely forceful when needed but otherwise quite serene and composed, so giving her some time in a spotlight all her own is a smart and enjoyable move. And it’s necessary to split her off from the other X-Men for this Forge story, because it’s not really a superhero tale. It’s more fantasy than any other genre, and even simpler than that, it’s a classic overcoming-various-trials-on-the-path-to-a-noble-goal narrative. To tell it properly then, Storm had to be removed from her usual environment so she could be gradually transitioned into the appropriate setting for this story. In many ways, the Crimson Commando (and friends) arc was a small sampling of what would come in the Forge arc, at least insofar as they’re both stories about Storm taking on insane odds with only her inner and outer strength to help her. But the Forge plot is thicker, more emotionally and narratively complicated, and far more tragic in its conclusion.

Storm begins at Forge’s old base of operations, but finds it dilapidated and mostly abandoned. The only person there is Naze, an old shaman and Forge’s former mentor. He tells her two things, both of which completely derail her effort to get her superpowers back. First, Forge’s guilt over taking away those powers drove him insane. Second, that insanity subsequently led him down a path of darkness so that now, rather than being the perfect instrument to prevent the end of everything, he’s going to cause it. Forge was apparently meant to battle a great force of existence-erasing evil called the Adversary, but instead his madness has turned him into the Adversary. Because Naze has the knowledge and Storm has the skills, and because they’re both so close with Forge, they team up (after Naze pretty much forces Storm to work with him) and begin an arduous trip through the wilderness and their own minds to reach Forge and stop him from undoing the universe.

They’re attacked by all manner of monster, usually some sort of oversized and slightly warped/enhanced animals. There are also some unpredictable and insanely harsh weather patterns, an insult-to-injury type of obstacle considering the weather used to totally be Storm’s wheelhouse. The closer she and Naze get to Forge, the more huge and difficult their challenges become, but Storm consistently keeps herself together and comes out on top. She acts quickly and with confidence, because she’s never given a moment to rest and over-think things. Luckily, Storm is the perfect person to deal with these kinds of incessant, fast-moving threats, because she’s self-aware and self-assured enough to trust her instincts and survive. As she and Naze make their way to Forge, she learns to rely on these instincts, so that when they finally find him, she tears through the horde of demons that try to stop her in something like a berserker rage. She gives in wholly to that part of herself, because it’s the part that has gotten her this far.

And when she’s standing before Forge, she stabs him with the same decisive haste, only to learn in his dying moments that she’d been tricked by Naze from the beginning. Forge wasn’t the Adversary, but was in fact trying to defeat the Adversary as he was always supposed to do. Storm, in her attempt to save existence, made its destruction considerably more likely. With Forge dead in her arms, Storm throws herself and the man she loved (and then killed) off a cliff, and that’s where we leave them at the end of 1987.

Of course, both characters would be seen again soon and many times thereafter, but the moment of their deaths is still a heartbreaking one. Because in all the issues leading up to this final fatal confrontation, Storm is such a pillar of self-reliance and intelligence, the revelation that she’s been a dupe and a puppet all along is a tough pill to swallow. To his credit, Claremont hints pretty heavily at it in earlier chapters, but even then, there’s an expectation that she’ll grow wise to Naze’s deceptions in time to stop herself from doing what she does. To actually watch her lose, to see her manipulated successfully, is painful and powerful. As she discovers she was wrong about Forge, the reader discovers that even Storm can be bested and blindsided, despite her unflappable disposition and, usually, the talent to back it up.

Of course, the fact that it feels unnatural to see Storm so thoroughly defeated says a lot about how awesome she is most of the time, including everything she does during her journey to find Forge. Those efforts may have been in vain in the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that she was impressive as hell when it was all going down. Swap out supervillains for magical forest beasts, and she’s no less in her element. Remove the safety net of her powers and the other safety net of her team, and she can still take all comers. If only she’d been a little less willing to so quickly accept that Forge’s agony over what he’d done to her had made him insane. I can see why it’d be appealing to think she mattered so much to him, and because she still had some lingering anger over the loss of her powers and his role in it, the idea of causing him pain might also have held some allure. She allowed herself to buy into this lie, and she trusted Naze from her own past with him, and it led to her kill a man she loved before he could save the world. At least when she screwed up, though, she kicked ass along the way.

Storm’s story is about the value of independence, indeed I’d call that the core of her character, but it also exposes some of the dangers of working alone. Maybe another set of eyes, belonging to someone not quite so close to the situation, could’ve seen Naze for the liar he was. Yet Storm’s lone wolf approach is what makes this narrative possible, because it needs to be a one-against-all kind of story. Her many victories are entirely hers, establishing her as one of the most capable X-Men around. But the enormous failure at the end is all hers, too, providing the gut-punch finale to her personal arc.

Monday, December 9, 2013

diary of a guttersnipe 12/09/2013: "hicksville or bust!"

by Shawn Starr

yea this is way late but i am lazy and sad so give me a break....

my CAB report
(** If i use two asterisks its not stealing Tom Spurgeon's format.)

** Drove to New York on Friday morning after not sleeping the previous night because I am a fucking moron. That drive is much better than the one to TCAF though, surprisingly enough.

** I went down with my Mother/Sister who were doing a joint vacation the same weekend in New York, this was possibly designed so i didn't have to pay for a bus/train ticket.

** I watched a marathon of "Boy Meets World" in the hotel room before Joey picked me up, it was the episode where Corey and Topanga get married. I like that the actor who plays Corey decided to play him as an old jewish man from the start. I also don’t understand why all their friends refuse to left them live with them, and actively get them kicked out of their residencies, just to teach them a lesson about hardships.

** Site Editor Joey Aulisio picked me up at a hotel after being in traffic for six years due to my poor understanding of time and how traffic works. He didn't know what i looked like since there are no photos of me online, so our first interaction was me leaving the hotel bar after he’d told me he was in the lobby and him walking by me and stopping to compliment my Youth In Decline shirt. I found it charming.

** We went out and got Chinese food while i was dozing off in his car. Once we got back to his house we got a series of texts from Alec Berry asking for directions. You see Alec had driven from West Virginia to Long Island without a GPS and no minutes on his phone and had (on the last leg of the trip) gotten lost. After a few tense minutes (a.k.a. us calling him a fucking idiot because who the fuck does that) he arrived and ate some soup that Joey had gotten for him.

** Me and Alec talked about how we both don’t write anything anymore, and how we should write more. Also that Sean T Collins / Frank Santoro post because that was the hot topic in comics at the moment.

** Joey limited the number of water bottles Alec could drink after Alec had mildly destroyed the recyclability of the one he had given him. Here is a picture of the bottle:

** Here is a picture of Joey trying to fix it:
(Alec gave him 25 cents for the destroyed bottle)

** I slept on the floor.

** I’m told i snore very loudly, but i didn't really feel bad since Alec took the couch. That piece of shit.

** We got to the show without much hassle. We only hit traffic when getting off the exit to the venue and  i think we spent more time trying to find parking then we did driving.

** I still don’t understand this bars' sign.

** The show’s in the same venue as last year, a church gymnasium which still elicits terrible catholic school memories. I pretty much be-lined it for the DeForge table to buy everything he had with him because that's how i start every con. 'Ant Colony' had sold out before we even got in the car to head out, which is kind of insane.

** The next thing i grabbed was 'Life Zone', Hanselman had a solid line for most of his signings. He seemed very charming for the 30 seconds i talked to him.

** I really like Frank Santoro’s set up, at TCAF and the Boston Comicon I talked with Chuck Forsman about how someone would clean up at the TCAF’s if they showed up with long boxes of silver/bronze/early-Image comics. Based on the purchases i saw while being there, that seemed true (I bought seven volumes of 'The Drifting Classroom' for $20 from him which is a god damn steal). 'Comics Workbook' #1 seemed to be going over very well, i had some mild issues with it once i read it but for $2 its worth a look through (Also, seeing criticism in print outside of TCJ once a year is nice).

** Joey doesn't understand my need to get my books signed, i don’t really either but David Mazzucchelli was in the building and…

**Artists really need to bring a bank to cons, i don’t think I've been to one yet where i don’t have at least five interactions where breaking a bill larger than a ten isn't an issue that takes several minutes to figure out.

** While less oppressively than last year, that venue still gets uncomfortably hot as the day goes on and the crowd gets larger.

** Me and Alec went outside to get some air and talked to Chuck Forsman for a bit. This guy was doing some art-show /music thing. I made a post-fort thunder joke about him, but no one laughed.

** When we went back in we couldn't find Joey, but after a few minutes we found him sitting behind Michel Fiffe’s table. He’d somehow swindled someone into giving him a place to sit down. He stayed there and shit talked with Fiffe for the remainder of the show while i gave both floors a few more passes and left knowing i’d missed something important that i’d always regret not buying (turned out it was John Pham’s book).

** I enjoyed the show, although this year's lineup seemed to be lacking a bit of the international feel that last years had (And a lot compared to TCAF).

** I have yet to catch any of the programming at BCGF/CAB in the two years I've attended, i think having it as a one day show and putting the programming in a separate building inhibits me from wanting to go to it. Also the early time of the 'City of Glass' panel, and the almost guarantee that it’d be filled by the time i got there kind of killed that one for me.

TCAF does a similar thing, on an even greater scale (i think last year had 3-5 offsite locations) but it being a two day show and in a much bigger venue (trying to walk the floor at CAB after 2pm is not very easy or pleasant so you kind of need to of bought everything you want before that and then just drift around after that) makes it feel less of a burden. Also the 3-5 locations are spread out enough that, if you were to go to panels at 2-3 of them you’d get a very feel for that area of the city (also could probably find someplace nice to eat on the way).

** We left and got burritos in long island around 3pm. Joey chastised me for getting a soda and drowning my burrito in hot sauce. That man's a stickler for health.

** Me and Alec read each other's comic purchases while Joey took a nap or something. I shoved my copy of 'Life Zone' into Alec's hands off the bat, he hadn’t read any of Hanselmann’s work before but seemed to really enjoy it. I’ read his copies of 'Beach Girls' which was a fun comic and one of the Andrew White books he got (Deconstruction?) looked interesting.

** I think that's it...we watched "This Is 40" which is probably the worst Apatow film, i slept on the floor again and was told i still snored.

** Oh, on the way home i stopped with my mother/sister at a wine tasting and it was the most awful things I've ever done. If you want to see the demographic that watched "The Newsroom", go to a wine tasting.

Ant Colony (Drawn & Quarterly)
by Michael DeForge

Do newspapers still print Sunday strips? Not cartoon strips that run on Sunday, but those strips that require Fantagraphics to print up giant 'Kramer's Ergot' 7 sized reproductions that have a base cost of $75 because any smaller reproduction would destroy your ability to read/fetishize them. Anyways, if they do then good for them, but 'Ant Colony' is (without even bothering to look it up) the best Sunday strip of the past decade.

That's a completely uninformed opinion, but i feel like it will stand the test of time.

In an era when even historical underground newspapers are folding, DeForge took one of the key legacies of cartooning and print which is the Sunday Strip, and re-purposed it for a medium that could still support it, Tumblr.

The plot of 'Ant Colony' revolves around a black-ant colony attacking a neighboring colony of red ants driven mad(der) by a substance secreted by spiders during copulation. DeForge creates a highly structured and complex world for the black-ant colony to live in, and while the story is centered on a couple of male worker ants as their relationship falls apart due to the red ant attacks, it does not shy away from introducing additional characters including a cowardly cop, a vision seeing child, or a female ant that has been repressed by society which keeps the male and female populations separated for fear of usurping the queen, and that doesn’t even mention the entire world outside of the colony DeForge is weaving.

DeForge’s story is large, it is ambitious both narratively and thematically, and at no point does it falter.

Last Letter (self-published)
by Hellen Jo


That's the only word i can think of after reading Last Letter. The books design and narrative revolve around destruction and point towards the freeing nature that the act brings about. 'Last Letter' arrives inside a sealed envelope, the return address penciled in by hand reads / On the Internet, a place where a physical letter can never be returned. One must consume it's contents or discard them, but never send it back - the object has achieved physicality from a realm that exists outside of the physical and it utilizes this new found existence to bring the reader into the narrative and creative process.

To read 'Last Letter', one must tear open the envelope which it is housed in (Not the envelope that it is mailed in, it is physically housed inside a smaller envelope). What could initially be seen as a cute production idea takes on additional meaning though once one actually opens the envelope; inside a small sixteen page silent mini comic. The first image contained within depicts a female sitting on a curb covering her face with one hand as a letter dangles in the other. This first illustration turns the nonchalant red envelope into the cover of the work and creates a real time prologue to the comic. This prologue is not illustrated by the artist, but instead acted out by the reader as they open the envelope. As harshly or carefully as the reader chooses to open the envelope, the act carries an energy over to the first panel which the artist could never anticipate, but that the work relies upon to provide a greater context. One could rip it open like an excited child receiving what they think is a birthday card containing money; or they could open it slowly and methodically, taking great care not to damage the envelope or the letter it contains in anticipation of what they hope will be good news one would want to preserve. Both of these actions, and the multitude of the variations in between them, all lead to the same answer though. A girl slumped over.

The content of the letter is never revealed, the comics title hints that it is a last letter, but from who and concerning what is not divulged or even hinted at. What is depicted though is the nameless female character working through her grief. In sixteen pages, her character cycles through each of the five stages of grief, and on each page that emotion is conveyed clearly and with feeling. Even the journey of the letter is a story in of itself, shifting from being covered in tears, being thrown on the ground in frustration and ultimately shredded and set ablaze. It’s journey mirrors the actions of its recipient, as they both move on to another place being consumed by flames. That Jo can realistically convey a wide range of emotions over the course of so few pages, without the aid of dialogue, but simply through her relying on her strength as a cartoonist and ability to manipulate body language is impressive.

you can purchase 'Last Letter' here.

Uber, Volume One (Avatar)
by Kieron Gillen, Caanan White, Keith Williams

The back matter in these issues where Gillen struggles with the idea of writing a comic which is based at it’s core on real people and real events (and in particular Nazism) is by far the most interesting part of these comics. The book itself is fine. It’s Avatar so the art is so-so and the writing is good enough, but it’s that struggle with one's own ethics that takes place between the back matter of each issue, along with the years that this book has been gestating within him which lifts the work to another level.

Read the comic, but digest the backmatter.

Moon Comic
by Blaise Larmee

A comic told through photographs. It begins with a single white light, which depending on the speed you are scrolling through, is quickly joined by a group of three yellow lights which mirror the white lights movements. These lights move around -disconnected in between panels which the vertical instead of horizontal reading structure only further highlights - coming together and repulsing each other until the four lights combine and then explode into dozens. The final image reveals these are all just lights from an airport.

Ascribing narrative is weird. Ascribing narrative importance is even weirder. Especially when they’re lights from an airport. This comic reminded me i’m fucking dumb.

There is also Shower Comic and Cat Comic.


Jog on Frank Woodring's 'Fran'

an art style that started with 'First Year Healthy' takes on new heights in 'Flu Comic'. A comic that was spawned by a 24 hour flu that DeForge once suffered.

Chris Mautner interviews Frank Santoro, as did Publishers Weekly.

Alec Berry is writing again. Alec wrote me a few times telling me i needed to write something to kick his ass back into gear, but i just couldn't. When Alec isn't writing (as he wasn't this past year), i’m not at my best. Which means i could barely kick my own ass into writing something feigning intelligence. Hence the past year’s scatter-shot output. Anyways, he has three essays out in less than a week's time and based on our privileged correspondences, he seems determined to keep up the pace.

Here are links:

Alec on 'Internet Comics'

Alec on Sam Alden’s 'Backyard'

Alec on not writing

I liked this Rob Liefeld piece, the first paragraph in particular.

"Jeet Heer, I like to call him the “Derek ‘Jeet’er of comic books" .................*sigh*. Heer was also involved in a much better and less groan worthy pun laden interview with Tom Spurgeon. The takeaway quote was:  “As a friend says, doing superheroes for adults is like doing porn for kids”

A piece about the soon to be ramp up to re-re-re-extended corporate copyrights.

Tom Spurgeon on 'Frontier' #2 and his piece on this year's CAB.