The original Secret Wars, those with long memories or copies of Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story may remember, came about purely to promote a toyline created entirely as an attempt to compete with another toy manufacturer’s plans to release a line based on DC’s superheroes. It is easily a contender for the comic book with the most cynical origins ever — and yet, somehow, next year’s revival of the title has managed to feel even more corporate and unnecessary. Continue reading
It’s funny, the unintended consequences thing: the youtube video was supposed to be worked into our podcast conversation as per the request/behest of Mr. Graeme McMillan, but I wasn’t able to do that because San Francisco had some rain.
Yes, because San Francisco had rain, we had no internet access in our home over the weekend, and while I was perfectly able to mix our recorded podcast, I wasn’t able to quickly pull otherwise easily retrievable information, music, pictures, right off the web. So instead you get a very forthright intro from the Blind Boys of Alabama right here in the show notes!
But…not a lot of pictures, still, because once the Internet came back, I decided my time might be better spent trying to get links for a lot of the various books Graeme and I talked about since this is our “Best Of” episode, and part of the point of releasing a “Best Of” episode is that it gives you, the listener, time to actually score some of the “Best of” titles should you so choose.
So! That said! Let’s hit the ground running. Oh, but before we do, remember: if you just want a link of the episode without having to deal with our wacky player, just jump to the very first comment where I’ll provide you with that direct context-free link. Okay? (S’alright.)
00:00-26:06: Greetings! And get off our lawn! Graeme is cranky; Jeff is cranky, and also overcaffeinated. Do you dare listen to our opening section and learn the secret of…. M.O.D.O.P.? Also discussed: is the term “professional podcaster” suspect? And: Youtube and Vine (not an updated Tom Waits album). And: blood pressure. And: TrollCon. See also: fandoms in revolt.
16:06-22:06: Here’s where we sort of segue into talking about comics (kinda?) as we talk a bit about the reaction to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Bitch Planet, and how fraught conversation can be in between the trolls, the boosters, and the naysayers.
22:06-28:36: And from there, Jeff starts talking about assembling his half-assed “Best of” comics list for this year, and we start talking about how ridiculously poorly read we are and therefore absurd that we are assembling these lists, our mainstream biases, the need for people to know these biases, and more.
28:36-45:36: All that in mind, with commentary and discussion, here comes Graeme’s Best of list for 2014! (But with Jeff butting and dropping some of his choices in the mix, too.) Mentioned: The Wrenchies! The Hospital Suite!Nijigahara Holograph! Lumberjanes (Boom!) by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke Allen! Gotham Academy (DC) by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl! Boredom with the White Guy Narrative; a great post Jeff read about comics for queer ladies that Graeme thought was on Ellie Collins’ Tumblr, but was actually at Fantastic Fangirls; fiction as a kid reader vs. fiction as an adult reader; Lawless, the Dan Abnett/Phil Winslade strip from Judge Dredd Megazine; “Shooter’s Night,” “Titan,” and “Mega-City Confidential” from 2000 A.D..; and the year for 2000 A.D. generally (not to be confused with the year 2000 A.D. generally).
45:36-58:33: Just throwing a random line break to push these show notes out a little. We’re still on Graeme’s list but we do have a lot of titles that cross over for both of us such as: Wild’s End (Boom!) by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard; Transformers vs. G.I. Joe (IDW) by Thomas Scioli and John Barber; and Afterlife with Archie (Archie, natch) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacala and Francisco Francavilla . Also mentioned: The Wicked and the Divine (Image) by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (with spoilers for the end of the first arc); Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, with additional chat about the Wilson’s appearance at the Marvel Creative Retreat.
58:33-1:15:14: The New Batgirl (DC) by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr! Jeff didn’t put it on his list but he’s very, very glad it’s around; Graeme did put it on his list and can’t bring himself to discuss the latest issue since it would spoil it for Jeff who hasn’t read it. (So, if you haven’t read it yet, make sure you do before the next episode, because we will probably talk the crap about that. But if you have read it, you’ve probably already seen, or might like to see this). Also discussed: the Batman titles; Marc Silvestri on a Batman title; Dark Knight 3 and an extended chat on the discomfort of feeling bad for Frank Miller; the influence of Steranko; the two line review of Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane. pic.twitter.com/8xmNHPbdFD
— Amazon Movie Reviews (@AmznMovieRevws) December 11, 2014
1:15:14-1:18:41: Graeme still can’t get through his list because Jeff keeps interrupting so Jeff promises to stop (and then keeps interrupting). Discussed: Flash Gordon by Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and Jordie Bellaire (Dynamite)! Zero (Image) by Ales Kot and collaborators! Saga (Image) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples! The Private Eye (Panel Syndicate) by BKV, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente!
1:18:41-1:26:19: TECHPOCALYPSE (boy, that hasn’t happened to us in a while. I almost miss ‘em.) And then we’re back to talk about scheduling, the potential snake in the garden of this current strong crop of indie books…or rather we’re back to talk about how we should talk about scheduling, the potential snake in the garden of the current super-strong crop of indie books, and then we get back to Graeme’s list. Amelia Cole (Monkeybrain/IDW) by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire; Multiversity (DC) by Grant Morrison and various; Nobrow #9: It’s Oh So Quiet (Nobrow) by various; (In A Sense) Lost and Found (Nobrow) by Roman Muradov; Over Easy (Drawn & Quarterly) by Mimi Pond; and Southern Bastards (Image) by Jason Aaron and Jason LaTour.
1:26:19-1:38:10: Okay, Jeff’s turn! Even though it has fiscally wounded him, he loves the collection of Jiro Kuwata’s Batmanga, whether in print or digitally for the Kindle or on Comixology; Sexcastle by Kyle Starks (self-published); Copra (self-published and distributed by Bergen Street Comics Publishers) by Michel Fiffe (as both a trade and an ongoing); Michael DeForge’s Lose #6 (Koyama Press) and his collection Very Casual (also by Koyama Press); Oglaf Book Two (Topataco) by Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper; Transformers vs. G.I. Joe (as mentioned above); Grayson (DC) by Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin, Scooby Doo Team Up (DC) by Scholly Fisch, Dario Brizuela and varios; Annihilator (Legendary) by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving; Multiversity, Saga, and Wild’s End (as mentioned above); and Alan Moore’s story in God is Dead: The Book of Acts (Avatar), illustrated by Facundo Percio.
1:38:10-1:56:51: Jeff also wants to give shout-outs to those books he wouldn’t really call “the best” of the year, but are part of the strong crop of titles he keeps talking about that keep him coming into the shop (almost) every week: Mighty Avengers (Marvel) by Al Ewing and various; The Fuse (Oni) by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood; Sex Criminals (Image) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (with an extended chat about the latest issue); Pretty Deadly (Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, and Jordie Bellaire; Batman (DC) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo; Batman & Robin by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason; Southern Bastards (as mentioned above); She-Hulk (Marvel) by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, and others; The Walking Dead (Skybound/Image) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn; Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta (Skybound/Image) by (yes) Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta; That’s Because You’re a Robot (Image) by David Quantick and Shaky Kane; Judge Dredd Mega City Two: City of Courts (IDW) by Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farina; Snipe (Comixology Submit) by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen; Graeme remembers now that he wanted to mention Harbinger (Valiant) and The Second Life of Doctor Mirage (Valiant?) which I should look up the creative teams for but I’m not going to because embedding this many links in one post has already made me want to lose my mind; Jeff has good things to say about the first few issues of Loki by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett and others; the lovely done-in-one goodness of Moon Knight by Warren Ellis, Declan Shelvey, and Jordie Bellaire; All-New Ghost Rider by Felipe Smith, Tradd Moore, and others; Hawkeye (Marvel) by Matt Fraction and collaborators (but most especially the epic of David Aja); and The Fade Out and the conclusion of Fatale (both Image) by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
1:56:51-end: Closing comments! Christmas cheer! Apologies again for not having our Avengers talk but we promise we will finish our read-through of the first 300 issues in our very next podcast. Also, next podcast: a great giveaway! And maybe some contributions from the wonderful people who’s contributed to us on Patreon where, as of this count, 87 patrons make this whole thing possible.) And don’t forget: A Charlie Brown Totebag Christmas! Places to look for us at—Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter! Tumblr!
Keep an eye out for us since the final date of our podcast is up in the air (I’d peg it as being that last Monday in December, though), please have a safe and sane holiday season, and, as always, we thank you for listening!
EDIT: Oh, crap. I forgot I told Graeme to give me his Best of list so I could just reprint them right here at the end if you wanted an easy reference. Check ‘em out behind the jump!
This should be a review but it’s not. It’s really more of a rant.
I’m not cheap. I’m not. I’m quick to pick up the check, I like buying presents for people. I like spending money—probably too much so—and I’m still down with the idea of using my money as a form of activism, whether that means buying books I believe in and giving them as gifts, or donating small amounts of money, or microloans through Kiva. All that.
But I also appreciate a good deal and like saving money. So allow me to give you an opportunity on a tremendous comics deal trembling quietly under your very nose…and while doing so, also grouse about my complete confusion about what the fuck DC Digital is doing.
When DC started digitally publishing Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga, I was in from the first issue. In fact, I was so delighted paying ninety-nine cents for the first 34 page installment of Batman’s fight with Lord Death Man (Lord Death Man!) that I signed up for a digital subscription via Comixology.
Of course, the next week wasn’t 34 pages for ninety-nine cents. It was fifteen pages for a dollar ninety-nine. As was the next. And the next. In my brain, I changed gears a little bit and part of me decided there was more than a little bit of consumerist activism in keeping my subscription. Well, getting this stuff restored isn’t cheap, I figured, and there probably aren’t that many people buying the digital copies so the price I’m paying is help underwriting the project.
If you listen to the podcast, you know I’ve gibbered happily about the stuff Kuwata is doing here: it’s great goofy Batman comics, stuff that looks like the “New Look” Batman from the ’60s but reads more like the wacky sci-fi Batman stories from the ’50s. I mean, my favorite story here has a supervillain named Professor Gorilla who is indeed a gorilla with the intelligence of a professor. He uses his new found genius to punish humanity for its cruel treatment of animals. He’s kind of R’as Al Ghul crossed with Gorilla Grodd, except he also wears a cape and mask like a wrestler in a lucha libre. I love Professor Gorilla with a passion that borders on the terrifying.
So about twenty minutes ago, when I started this post, I was going to tell you, “hey, good news, the first collection of Batmanga is in print and you should get it because it’s a fantastic deal.”
And, don’t get me wrong, it is a really good deal. It has the first six stories (or nineteen issues) for $14.99 in a well-designed trade paperback. Seriously, 357 pages for a hair under fifteen bucks!
And then I thought about it and broke out the calculator and did the math.
I paid $36.81 for that same amount of material.
Let’s take the glass half-full approach: I got to read all this material on a weekly basis starting five months ago. I didn’t have to go to a comic store for it; in fact I usually downloaded it on Friday night so I could read on my lunch break on Saturday, and all nineteen issues take up the same slot of space on a device about as thick as a slice of bread.
But you know what? If DC Digital had charged me ninety-nine cents an issue, I would’ve paid $18.81. And while that would’ve saved me a lot of money, it would’ve still been more than the $14.99 they’re charging for the trade paperback. As you know, the trade has a lot more hidden costs behind it: there’s printing costs, distribution costs, the costs of returns for the book in the bookstore market. Somebody got paid to design the dress. And if you buy this book on Amazon, you don’t even pay $14.99, you pay 12.99 for the paperback because Amazon is willing to work on a lower profit margin than your local comic book store.
And here’s where it gets weird, stupid, and kind of offensive: you can also buy this volume as a Kindle edition for $9.99.
Yep. you can buy the Kindle edition of the trade, collecting all nineteen issues for $9.99. In fact, you can buy the Comixology collection for $11.99, as opposed to buying all nineteen digital issues for $36.81.
So let’s look at that glass half-full approach again. The only advantage I now have for my extra twenty-five dollars is that I got to read the material on a weekly basis starting five months ago. I suppose if I divide twenty-five by five, that’s five dollars a month extra or a little over $1.25 an installment? That’s really not so bad, is it?
I don’t know. I feel like it kind of is bad?
I know I’ve bitched about this before but I feel the topic merits revisiting: is DC’s Digital program an attempt to develop and test a new marketplace, or is it a big ol’ cash grab?
Seriously, DC: now that you have a digital collection where every installment is basically sixty-three cents, why don’t you adjust the prices of the individual issues to ninety-nine cents to encourage more new readers to experiment, or for people who enjoyed the trade to gift issues? Assuming you’ve made your nut enough to offer a print edition, with all the additional cost that entails, for something like seventy-eight cents an installment, what exactly are you accomplishing by continuing to offer eighteen of the first nineteen installments for $1.99? There’s not even the advantage now of being the first on the block to read it so what exactly is the reason for the price, apart from the idea you can fleece a mark who doesn’t know about the trade? And even if that’s not the reason, you can see how it looks like that, right? And what kind of consumer relationship do you think you build looking like that?
Anyway, that was to DC. This is to you: look, do you like Batman? Goofy, pre-grim Batman with weird and occasionally really lame villians? Then do yourself a favor: if you have a tablet, pick up the digital collection for super-cheap. If you don’t, pick up the trade paperback for almost as cheap. They’re Batman-shaped funhouse mirrors, reflecting a different time and a different country back at you. And if you do, let me know, so I can feel more like a successful proselytizer than just another rube, gulled again at the boardwalk.
If there’s one thing that thinking about your personal Best Of lists at the end of the year means — and right now, I’m working on variations for three different outlets, including the podcast, so this is very much on my mind these days — it’s that you’ll realize how much time you spend talking about the things that you love. Or, in my case, how much time I don’t spend talking about the things that I love. Continue reading
This will be a very speedy post and, as always, I apologize. Unlike always, this isn’t because of my own personal scheduling shortcomings this time around, but because—as mentioned in the header—this post is kinda time-sensitive. Through December 4, you can get a month of Marvel Unlimited for 75 cents. Exactly one year ago, a very similar deal got me hooked on the service, and I thought I’d return the favor to all of you. In, fact, just the other day on Twitter we got this question:
— Timothy McCarthy (@casanovanaut) December 2, 2014
(Which, me being me, didn’t realize was in reference to this tweet:)
If you have a tablet, consider getting a month of Marvel Unlimited for seventy-five cents: http://t.co/wFPxdC2tku Absolutely worth it.
— Wait, What? Podcast (@WaitWhatPodcast) December 1, 2014
so it does seem this is the kind of thing some of you might want to know. What really could you read for your seventy-five cents? I tried to do some quick research of stuff I could advocate for and here’s what I came up with. Please note I stole a suggestion or two from Graeme who weighed in on the conversation above, and also note that I haven’t actually read all of what I’m about to list: some of it is what I’m looking forward to reading, what I’m looking forward to re-reading, and, in a few cases, what I actually have read.
So! Behind the jump so I don’t bump Graeme’s excellent Superman Unchained post off the page!
There’s a sense of deja vu finally reading Superman Unchained in its entirety after following the Superman run by Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. for the last few months — Superman Unchained is out in hardcover soon, and I was reading an advanced copy of that; amusingly, the back copy boasts that it’s got “COMICS’ BIGGEST WRITER! COMICS’ BIGGEST ARTIST!” which is arguably true, but feels like Johns is crying somewhere in response nonetheless. Both Johns and Snyder are clearly trying to… not reboot Superman, exactly, but trying to convince fans that he’s super cool and awesome, honest, and both do so using the same method: comparing Superman with a fake Superman created especially for the story. I’m not sure if “Superstrawman” was ever actually considered as a name for either of the Super stand-ins, but it probably should have been. Continue reading
Hey, everyone! Maybe you’re discovering this right in the thick of Cyber-Monday, busily hitting refresh for the opportunity to get a $1.99 DVD copy of Jonah Hex (confession: I did this) or maybe you’re ignoring all the folderol, and are busy hitting the web for what’s really important: podcasts of two grown men speaking in conspiratorial tones about comic books. Either way, we decided to give you the hook up almost a day early so you can re-sharpen those forks and knives and tuck in to our two hour and thirty minute episode! Remember: if you want just the straight link to the episode, check out OUR VERY FIRST COMMENT where I will give you the connect along with the bonus of MORE WORDS IN ALL-CAPS.
But first (for me, you can skip straight down there if you want): Show notes ahoy!
00:00-16:20: Greetings (of a sort)! Things are a bit wonky right at the beginning and, us being us, there’s even more conversational scratchings of the head than other podcasting teams might otherwise give you. And yet! We are talking about the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer almost immediately out of the gate so…take that, competent podcasters! We talk the trailers for the prequel trilogy; exposition versus imagery; the Jurassic World trailer (which I thought about linking you to or even embedding and then went nahhh); the charms of Chris Pratt; and the secret appeal of Zack Snyder movies; all of which leads us into:
16:20-1:11:14: Movie talk! Jeff has seen some movies so…let’s talk about movies! Discussed: The Wolverine; Baz Luhrmann and “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” the most terrible songs or musical artists we can confess to liking; Jesus Jones; The Jesus and Mary Chain; Hugh Jackman pooping in the woods; The Lego Movie; and the glory of Lego Batman; the movies we’ve seen the most (incomplete conversation due to Jeff’s curiosity about the commentary tracks on the Scott Pilgrim movie); Wim Wenders; 22 Jump Street; Tom Cruise’s movie Edge of Tomorrow (with a brilliant stealth retitling as Live, Die, Repeat); and more. By contrast, Graeme has been catching up with the TV series Helix, currently available on Netflix Streaming; Jeff forgot to mention Le Quattro Volte in his list of recent movies and somehow (don’t ask us how), that brings us around to:
1:11:14-1:55:11: Pax Americana! Yes, 70 minutes in and we finally start talking comics on our comic book podcast. The spoiler warning here is at Defcon Full Spoiler Jacket, because we discuss this remarkable Grant Morrison/Frank Quietly meditation on Watchmen from just about every possible angle including the stalker love letter angle; the critique of formalism angle; the hole in things angle; gnostic and Christian interpretation angle; the misremembering of Watchmen angle; the digressing about From Hell angle; the incomplete Bleeding Edge anecdote angle; the “but isn’t Alan Moore paranoid?” angle; the “where does Obama play into all this?” angle; and the “maybe Jeff talked too much and Graeme didn’t get to talk enough” angle; and then…
1:55:11-2:10:45: Annihilator! Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving’s strange twin to Multiversity. Graeme has a great take on the idea that Pax Americana is Morrison on Moore, and Annihilator is Morrison on Morrison. Jeff thinks maybe it’s Morrison on Morrison’s influence? (Spoiler: Graeme’s take is much, much better.) Also mentioned: Flex Mentallo; The Filth; Wanted; Change; Grayson: Future’s End; and more.
2:10:45-2:32:21: Graeme quick-reviews Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #4 by Tom Scioli and John Barber; Superman/Wonder Woman #13 by Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke; Supergirl #36 by Mike Johnson and K. Perkins with art by Emanuela Lupacchino; Dr. Spektor, Master of the Occult #4 by Mark Waid and Neil Edwards; and then there’s some talk about the holiday that might make you think we are getting ready to get to our closing comments, but don’t be fooled because Graeme also has a comment or two up his sleeve about the Flash Gordon Annual! And Jeff blurb-blabs The Fade Out #3 by Brubaker and Phillips; Southern Bastards #5 by Aaron and LaTour; Batman & Robin #36 by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray; Wytches #2 by Scott Snyder and Jock; and Justice League of America issues #139, 140, 141 by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin. Also, why are gifs so hard to search for? There’s a related gif I’m having trouble finding. Oh, no wait, here it is!
2:32:21-end: Grame begins his transformation back in to The Fly, so the closing comments are mighty, mighty hasty! But of course, we have nothing but love for you listeners, especially everyone who’s contributed to us on Patreon where, as of this count, 85 patrons make this whole thing possible.) Tote For Your Life, Charlie Brown! Places to look for us at—Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter! Tumblr!
Thanks for listening! Follow our posts here and/or come back in two weeks for more!
By the time you read this, it’ll be Thanksgiving, people in the U.S. will be gorging on food and trying not freak out on their families. As I will definitely be one of those people, I thought it best I try and jump on the weekly post train early in hopes of bringing you something to read while trying to escape good ol’ Uncle Jim’s terrifying opinions about the state of the country.
So, yeah. Don’t listen to that: read this!
SENSATION COMICS #14 and #15 (DIGITAL): FINALLY, the Gilbert Hernandez story they’ve been teasing us with since this series was announced! Interestingly, it’s a little more modern than I would’ve expected, in that Beto’s story has Wonder Woman falling under the control of Kanjar Ro (and space-villain-slash-anthropomorphic-lizard-warthog Sayarr) and punching it out with Supergirl (and then, in part two, Mary Marvel). If this had been drawn by, say, Drew Johnson and inked by Ray Snyder, who did some very lovely work in issues #12 and #13 (albeit a little high on the “exposition asscrack” shots), it might’ve fit in a bit too well with the New52’s current “a pinch of charm, slather on the mayhem” approach. Wonder Woman even says stuff like “well, now—learn your last lesson and join the rest of the Kryptonian dead, little girl!” Admittedly, she’s mind-controlled for the majority of the issue, but she’s kind of a little…bitchy in a lot of this.
Fortunately, Beto’s art takes the sting out of Beto’s writing, and John Rauch does a great job coming up with a deceptively simple color scheme that avoids any kind of pop art cliches but still keeps the art looking simple and charming. And although his Wonder Woman is an enjoyably broad-shoulder cartoon and his Supergirl is lovingly nostalgic (she’s got the blue skirt, no exposed belly look of her first appearance), it’s his Mary Marvel that looks truly fantastic, with scrawny arms and a broad expressive face. Despite my repeated clamoring for this story, I generally prefer indie cartoonists to continue to do their own thing (especially when that thing is as weird and as frequently great as Gilbert Hernandez’s), but man do I kind of wish DC would greenlight a Beto-written and drawn Marvel Family epic. That could be pretty fantastic. This was….Very Good, and at $1.99 to get the whole thing, well worth the price and wait.
KING OF EXTREME COOKING VOL. 1: After the Fumi Yoshinaga cooking comics misadventure which brought me one step farther away from the stove and one step closer to the fact of my impending death, I cast about to find some sort of cooking manga like the one that’d started my love for the genre: Iron Wok Jan, the series that proved that cooking manga doesn’t even have to be good to be great. I probably should’ve just done my due diligence, figured out what the last volume of Yakitate! Japan I’d read and then checked out more of the same from the library, but instead I found myself over at Emanga.com, the Internet’s one stop yaoi/hentai/Tezuka [??] shop for ereaders and impulse-purchased the first volume of King of Extreme Cooking by Shigeru Tsuchiyama.
Unfortunately, KoEC is less of a cooking manga, and more of a restaurant management manga, the first half of the volume concerns Ryosuke, a down-on-his-luck ramen shop owner about to get crushed by the mega-successful Kuchifuku House chain. Fortunately, Yuiko, the geisha in training who has a crush on him, saves up her money to buy the services of restaurant consultant, Toshizou Kitagata, a fancy-jacket-wearing dude who looks like he just escaped from a fighting manga. (Or maybe I just think that because I spent most of my time wishing someone would punch him in the face.) Kitagata has harsh words for poor Ryosuke—lots and lots of harsh words—but manages to completely make over Ryosuke’s lax approach to customer service as well as his restaurant, turning it into an inexpensive stand-up restaurant with bowls of all-you-can-eat food.
That’s all well and good, but I wanted, I dunno, a cooking competition where someone sprinkles a mystery ingredient on pickled goat intestines causing it to wriggle and do the “Mysterious Pickled Goat Intestine Dance!” which the judges find irresistible and can’t help but yelling superlatives and expositions at one another. That shouldn’t be so hard, should it?
Oh, and I’m not crazy about the PDF arrangement of this book where the individual pages read right-to-left, but the book itself is read left-to-right, thus effing in the A any bleedover spreads. I’m sure if I was reading porn this may not be such a big deal but…do they really expect me to read Tezuka this way?
[And as long as I’m asking the questions: is there anything really worth getting at Emanga? Despite my grousing about the format, I’m so in the mood for some decent second-rate manga that isn’t written for thirteen year old boys that I’d happily overlook the limitations if there was something worthy…]
THE FILTH #1 and BATMAN #701 and #702: I re-read these digitally, having picked them up in recent Comixology sales (there will come a terrifying time in the not-too-distant future where Comixology will have a Batman sale and I’ll have all the issues) and a few things struck me:
(1) The Filth looks gorgeous digitally, oh my god, you guys. I love Chris Weston’s art (and this is the book that taught me to love it) . But on a fancy-dan iPad? Holy hell, do Matt Hollingsworth’s colors kick this book up to a whole another level of bad drug trip authenticity. The colors of the wallpaper and the bathroom tiles in Greg Feely’s flat are simultaneously utterly authentic and otherworldy. It’s a nasty piece of work, The Filth, but the digital color gives it an extra level of wallop. How this ties into The Function of The Filth’s observations about experiencing the work, I really can’t say for sure: the issue seemed much funnier than I remembered it being? Maybe the closer the comic comes to being viewed on the same device as mindless Hollywood product, the easier it is to see it as a bracingly mean dust-up of same?
(2) Speaking of which, I didn’t really notice until this time around how much the first issue of The Filth is more or less exactly the first issue of Mark Millar’s Wanted: miserable man trapped in a dead-end existence is (re)activated by a woman of color who comes bearing the news of his true legacy and delivers him unto a wilder, even darker plane of being. Doesn’t it stand to follow that there’s so much to be inferred about the differences between G-Mo and M-Mill that Millar’s protagonist is young, blond dead ringer for a white-hot rapper and Morrison’s is a balding wanker whose closest friend is his cat? No matter how much Morrison cranks up the hyper-uglies here, his heart is still with the loser, and convinced the loser’s life is of infinite importance.
(3) Going from The Filth #1, where Greg Feely wakes up to his real life, and Batman #701 and #702, where Batman fills us in on how he got from the pages of R.I.P. and into the pages of Final Crisis, made me realize that I am heavily disinclined to diss Morrison for attending to the same themes in his work over and over. I would pay good money to read the book Chris Weston draw the issue of Batman where lecherous boozer Bruce Feely is snapped out of the Scarecrow’s spell by the appearance of cat-headed Selina Kyle at some third string comic book convention (no, wait, not Bruce Feely…it should be Bob Kane, shouldn’t it?) But, in a way, jumping from The Filth #1 to Batman #701 kinda gave that same kind of frisson.
(4) maybe I’ll end up re-reading Batman, RIP? Based on #701 and #702, the whole thing seems like it’d be much more fun to re-read than to read. Also, can we start a Kickstarter to get David Uzumeri enough money that he can go and write the book-long analysis of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman? I don’t know if that shit is more or less aching to be written, but I sure as hell am aching to read that shit.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #151: Finally, I read a Bob Haney and Jim Aparo story called “Disco of Death,” wherein Batman and The Flash team up to fight, yes, a disco that is killing people. It has a Phatom of the Opera figure in a disco, The Flash being saved by his own superspeed in a stunning example of Bob Haney and Jim Aparo clearly not giving a shit how superspeed works, a great flashback pastiche of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and Batman throwing three sticks of dynamite at fleeing thugs, while saying “Got to lob this just right…don’t want…to kill them!” It’s an amazingly dumb comic, and an absolute delight, and I didn’t have to read from right to left.
There are things that we just can’t untangle from our own biases, our own tastes and likes and dislikes, to see underneath and work out whether they’re actually any good or not. It happens in both directions; I have such an inexplicable attachment to Doctor Who that it dulls my critical faculties and yet leaves it open to the most random, meaningless dismissals, for example (“It’s not humanistic enough!” isn’t a reason to get grumpy at a science-fiction show, I feel, and yet). Similarly, my dislike of Frank Miller’s machismo deadens the appeal of almost all of his work. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.
All of which is a long-winded way of getting around to admit that I have no idea whether or not Ody-C #1 is any good or not.
It is, after all, a perfect storm of things that I have problems with; Matt Fraction is very much writing in his lyrical “mythic” mode — something that he’s used in his Thor, sure, but also elsewhere; I feel like Casanova goes there, occasionally, as well — and using broken narration that
different caption boxes with
little rhyme or
reason, neither in the breaks in the text nor the layout on the page; it’s something that other writers do as well, and it always floors me in my reading. I find myself too conscious that I am reading, all of a sudden, whatever spell I might have been in broken. Two strikes so far, and that’s before I’ve reached Christian Ward’s art, which — and this is the most arbitrary of tastes, of inner rules, I know — feels like it’s too scratchy and rough for me to read properly as the psychedelia that I feel it wants to evoke. The hand of the artist is too present, for want of a better way to put it; the slickness I associate with the colors and shapes detourned by the quality of the line and unfinished nature of the visuals.
(The art is fascinating to me, I admit; Ward is, if nothing else, a wonderful colorist and an ambitious penciler, but there are moments here where it just doesn’t come together and the result feels more disappointing as a result of his ambition than it would from other artists; the wide shot on the 11th page, for instance, features faceless characters whose positioning is stiff and unnatural. Elsewhere on that same page, indistinct lifework is given form by the colors, which feel as if they’re overpowering the lines instead of supporting them. Throughout the entire book, it’s simultaneously ugly and beautiful, and I can’t quite figure out what to make of it. It reminds me of a bad trip version of Fiona Staples’ work at times, and I’m not even sure if that’s a compliment or an insult.)
(I have suddenly realized that the writing, in many ways, reminds me of the Heavy Metal-ness of Prophet that I have such trouble connecting to. But calling this book “It’s like Prophet and Saga but not really” almost feels like I’m misrepresenting it dramatically. Nonetheless, it’s not unlike those two books mixed together.)
My point being: Ody-C is a book that, based on this first issue, is very much not my bag. But what interests me about it is that it’s so not my bag that I have trouble working out what I actually thought of it. On some base level, I “know” that I didn’t like it; it’s filled with all these things that I don’t like, after all, so how could it be otherwise? I found myself reading it as if my mind was stuttering, stopping-and-starting and getting distracted, unable to stay in the moment. It wasn’t something that I could honestly say that I enjoyed. But.
But there’s something about it. There are things, small things, perhaps, but things that I found myself loving for as little reason as those things I disliked. The numbered narrative in the captions! The understated line, “Fuck the war,” so dismissive and casually intent in dismissing traditional narratives for kindness. The feeling that things are strange and uncomfortable and unfamiliar — this feels very much like Casanova does at its best, that Fraction is stumbling towards some emotional reality that’s beyond his consciousness, and I appreciate that very, very much. And those colors! Those shapes! For all my problems with Christan Ward’s linework, there really is something very beautiful happening here.
What I’m left with, I feel, is that there’s a lot to embrace in Ody-C. It’s definitely not a perfect book, but I suspect that it’s an interesting one, and that my inability to truly appreciate that is very much my own failing, and my own fault. In that way, it reminds me of what I said about The Wrenchies on the last episode of the podcast — it’s not something that I can honestly say I enjoyed, but it’s something that I find myself hoping that other people read and find a connection there that I didn’t. Ody-C, I think, deserves the attempt if nothing else.
Previously: Jeff decided to start writing on Fumi Yoshinaga, the brilliant mangaka behind Flower of Love, Antique Bakery, What Did You Eat Yesterday? among many, many others, and her one volume work Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! But, first, he figured it was worth exploring a line he’d written a week earlier and how it tied into his own feelings about American superhero comics, along with a spectacularly dour view of his brief time entering—or more accurately, not entering—the comic book industry after trying to break in. The column ended with Fumi Yoshinaga, still on the horizon, undiscussed, and her connection to all of Jeff’s other verbiage unclear.
Around a decade or so ago, I pulled a page from the Jor-El playbook and packed up my love of comics and shot it to Planet Manga, in the hopes that, free from the shackles of corporate-owned comics (while still allowing me to read something on a semi-regular basis), it would grow strong. I’m overplaying it to stick the Superman analogy because I still continued to read many, many superhero comics, both old and new, but…if nothing else, I was at least commuting to Planet Manga, and had staked a lot of my hopes there.
And for a while it was pretty much successful, at least until I realized somewhat early on that, hmm, wait a minute, I can only read so many stories about a plucky young hero driven to be the best at [some sport/serial killing/girlfriend having] and finally overcoming tremendous obstacles to become the best [sportsman/serial killer/girlfriend haver] by virtue of his [indomitable spirit/mysterious link to ancestors/good heart and/or penis]. It’s not a bad formula at all, but sort of in the same way manga lovers who’ve transitioned to superhero comics can get a little antsy after a while, running a finger under their collar and nervously asking, “uh, there is more to it than just this, right?”, I found myself getting a bit skittish, not in love enough with the tropes to appreciate the nuances with which they were handled. Wasn’t there something for everyone in manga? Where was all the, I dunno, delight?
Enter Shaenon K. Garrity’s Overlooked Manga Festival, a collection of LiveJournal entries that were was absolutely everything I needed to keep me interested in the field, with entries covering all corners of the manga map—shonen, shōjo, bishonen and other terms I always have to look up to make sure I really do mean what I’m writing.
In fact, looking over the list now, I’m a little appalled about how many of my very favorite manga are on that list. I didn’t just go down that list entry by entry and immediately assumed every find I liked was my own personal discovery, did I? I hope not—but there are a couple of books I know with positive and absolute assurance I wouldn’t have tried without Shaenon writing about it: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is definitely one. And Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga is another.
Me attempting to describe Yoshinaga’s work is going to be like watching a monkey drive a stick shift but… Fumi Yoshinaga is a shōjo mangaka, which means her work is for a largely female audience. If I’m understanding Wikipedia’s super-brief entry on her correctly, I’m guessing that Yoshinaga was at the right age to be a reader during the dawning age of shōnen-ai, also known as the “boys love” manga of the ’70s and ’80s. Shōnen-ai, if I’m following it right, started off as stories of platonic love between young boys which then, thanks to the fanfic of the dōjinshi markets, got steamed up and became more explicitly gay (though the definition of the word “explicitly” here can be misleading since I’m not necessarily talking about depiction of sexual acts—maybe I should use the term “openly”?)
Frequently set in distant times and in different cultures (like Europe), shōnen-ai is Otherness with a generous side-helping of Other, the kind of stuff I imagine being read by whipsmart outsider girls of the time: character-driven, educational, but also kinda hot—like regency romances, I guess? But with gay protagonists, so as to allow more sexual concepts into the mix without resulting objectification anxiety?
From a critical perspective, what’s (probably) interesting about Yoshinaga is how her work, having emerged from this framework, moves freely to embrace all its aspects: Flower of Life is definitely a platonic love story between teenage boys in a manga club (which provides for more than a few fond anecdotes about making dōjinshi); Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is an alternate history in which a man-killing disease turns medieval Japan into a matriarchal society; and Antique Bakery is a character study of three hot awesome dudes who run a hot awesome bakery.
But from this fan’s perspective, what’s great about Yoshinaga is how effortlessly exquisite her characterization is, how leisurely her storytelling is, and how deftly she can upend my expectations. It’s always hard for me to properly calibrate my comparisons of creators when their work does not feature explosions and brainpunching, but Yoshinaga’s work reminds me of Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, two films long on charm, leisure, and wry affection for their characters.
Jonesing for exactly this kind of fix—and finding myself for whatever reason too daunted to dig into Ōoku, despite really digging the first volume—I eagerly picked up the first two volumes of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 1 (2007?), Yoshinaga’s multi-volume chronicle of a middle-aged gay couple and the meals they prepare and eat together. Perfect, I remember thinking. I love food manga! I love Yoshinaga’s characterizations! I love how slowly and subtly Yoshinaga insinuates her themes into her narrative. I can’t wait!
Two volumes later, I found myself a bit cross, not quite willing to admit I’d been bored by what I read but unable to rally any excitement for it, either. By and large, the stories in the first two volumes take the concept of “slice of life” storytelling to a brand new level of diceyness: handsome and fastidious, Shoji is an indifferent lawyer by day and a spectacular cook by night, who spends most of his time trying to figure out how to prepare the most delicious meals for the least amount of money. Kenji, his partner, is a happy-go-lucky hairdresser who is absurdly grateful for all the great meals and props up the meals with his stories and charm.
I can’t fault Yoshinaga for the series doing what it says on the tin: it shows you the foods Shoji prepares and how he prepares them, and it shows the couple enjoying the meal together. And it’s a handy comic: most of the drama comes from how Shoji prepares his meals based on what’s available, fresh, and cheap, and also how he takes his ingredients and plays them out over several meals. It’s not hard to imagine other less lazy people than myself getting inspired to think about how to be prudent about what they eat, how to get the most out of the foods they buy. And, even more impressive, is how this ties into the emotional theme of the books (at least as I could discern it), where two middle-aged people who aren’t perfect for one another are nevertheless right for each other. What Did You Eat Yesterday is a very middle-aged book, since its ongoing topic is how to do more with less. Around the fringes of What Did You Eat Yesterday hovers a secret sense of dissatisfaction…but beyond that dissatisfaction is acceptance, and with that acceptance is love (of a very middle-aged conception of it). Like I said, I couldn’t fault it but for whatever reason I didn’t much enjoy it, either.
Yeah, right. “For whatever reason.” I guess the reason is pretty obvious: I’m 48, and I’m uncomfortable with how much acceptance I should be feeling, how much dissatisfaction I should be copping to in my life. As mentioned in my previous entry, I genuinely consider myself blessed to be married to the woman I’m married to, I have friends, I have my health (or what the non-physically-fit 48 version of it looks like, probably), I have a job that allow me at least a little financial comfort and the time to enjoy that comfort.
But is it what was expected from the kid who looked at the top-of-the-pagecredit box of Marvel Comics and imagined his name there? No, it’s probably not.
Like everyone else, I’ve got days where I open my email and there’s correspondence from friends and family, from people I communicate with on a regular basis thanks to the podcast and the website, and people I’m just getting to know. And there are those days where all I get is junk, mailing lists I no longer follow, ten thousand bloodcurdling calls to action from activist groups, up-to-the-minute reminders to buy stuff based on stuff I’ve bought, and endless, endless sales. (I should just acknowledge the fact I’m never going to buy anything from Think Geek and unsubscribe.) Depending on how lonely your childhood was, I think it’s easy to imagine adulthood as this amazing place where you’re paid attention to all the time. You just command it, it’s yours by right of being an adult. And while I have to say—one hand on my heart, I’m being absolutely sincere—I’m genuinely grateful that is not the case, I also have to say: this, right here? Not what I was expecting. What Did You Eat Yesterday? is one of those works where I didn’t connect because I couldn’t bear to connect. I think adulthood in some ways is like landing a jet: sometimes you have to touch the truth and bounce away a few times before you finally get all your wheels on the ground. There wasn’t anything terrible about What Did You Eat Yesterday?, there wasn’t anything I hadn’t really considered before, but I also had no desire to face it, story after story, chapter after chapter, chopped scallion after chopped scallion.
But I still wanted to read Fumi Yoshinaga in a contemporary setting. Well-observed characters! Slow and subtle themes! Food, if possible!
So I did a little bit of desperate late-night shopping and ordered Not Love But Delicious Foods(Make Me So Happy),(2005?), a single volume of stories by Yoshinaga that are ostensibly reviews of some of Yoshinaga’s favorite places to eat in Tokyo, but are also something like whimsical autobio comics. The book itself came out in 2010 and existed in that “oh sure there are copies because not a lot of people bought them (this ain’t Naruto, after all), but you’re gonna have to wait a couple of weeks to get it into your grubby little paws instead of two days (this ain’t Naruto, after all)” state I’m growing mercifully less and less aware of in my dotage. (Cue footage of Amazon drones shooting down American eagles with laser beams.) With optimism and trepidation, I dug in. (Food pun…intended?)
As mentioned, it’s a one-off volume, and in some ways it’s a dry-run for What Did You Eat Yesterday?, since it’s part food manga, part slow-burn relationship comedy. It’s much more immediate and funny, however, because Yoshinaga continually presents herself in an unflattering light: even the image above, where Yoshinaga is all dolled up and I think presenting some sort of come-hither look, has her scarfing down a hilariously unsexy piece of food and wearing a charm necklace that all but flashes “WARNING: CRAZY WOMAN!” And when she’s back in her studio complaining about work, or not having a boyfriend, or not having any good food to eat, she’s drawn even less flatteringly (and more winningly):
For those of us hoping for more of a story, NLBDFMMSH teases a bit more romance. The relationship between “Y-Naga” and her school-chum-turned-assistant, “S-Hara,” looks as if it might be bloom into romance (the two had promised to marry if they were still single when they were thirty four; the story where this is revealed ends with them pushing the date back to forty), and at several points the narrative feints like it’s going to be a coming-of-age story of a late-bloomer (S-Hara) finally coming into his own in the manga business, or a romance between S-Hara and the other assistant of Y-Naga he’s been crushing on, or several other narrative strategies that never come to pass. Unlike What Did You Eat Yesterday, I found the gambit far funnier here: sandwiched in between all the pages showing you the delicious food making Y-Naga happy, these teases are clearly just jokes that help the book live up to its title.
I also finished the book feeling a little bit distraught. As you may notice in the caption above, Y-Naga is hilariously harsh in her descriptions of herself, and her relationships with those closest to her involve at least one person being frustrated by her selfishness or abrasiveness or… And she herself only seems intermittently satisfied with her life, happiest when at a restaurant but even there, on a date, she’s willing to say that she calls herself “an illustrator” rather than admit to being a mangaka, moving beyond the standard Japanese convention of modesty to something closer to genuine shame . At every point, Yoshinaga, her friends, her dates fail to connect when they should, greeting confessions with embarrassment or indifference. It’s funny in a Seinfeld kind of way, but it’s also sad.
And that’s my big stopping point? “It’s funny in a Seinfeld kind of way, but also sad?”
Yeah, I guess it is. It was sad in a way that gave me pause, but also maybe courage: it made me think about dissatisfaction, and if conveying dissatisfaction will help move someone to the next level (acceptance, love). And it made me think about community: sometimes you still have community but that community never quite coheres in the way you think it does because we’re people, not refrigerator magnets. (By the way, if it turns out we are indeed refrigerator magnet? Please DO NOT tell me.) Maybe if it’s Not Love, But Delicious Comic Books that make me so happy, it seems to follow I cannot be happy all the time, or even a chunk of the time?
The meal is consumed, the comic book is read (and stored, or lost, or forgotten, or remembered). I’m 48 and soon I will be dead—I mean it’s a very relative term “soon,” I’m not offing myself and I don’t plan on getting into any gunfights anytime soon, but if by “soon,” I mean “less than 48 years,” then yeah, probably soon—and what is left?
I don’t know the answer—I don’t think I should know the answer— but in the fringes of these books, I found clues that led me to suspect I should finally be asking the question.