Month: September 2004


Hey Look!

Scott Tipton continues his Gruenwaldian musings… today he discusses Squadron Supreme and DP 7 (which I’m ashamed to say I’ve only read a few issues of!)

The aesthetical talk continues at Otto’s Coffee Shop

Tim O’Neil talks Alf! (And he’s not the only one!)As a proud owner (and signer of the petition campaign which may–or may not–have been instrumental in bringing this magical thing about) of ALF: Season One on DVD, I applaud him for it! The next generation ought to be made aware of the genius that was Max Wright!

They’re grappling with the old “what makes a superhero?” conundrum at The Howling Curmudgeons–good stuff!

Also, let’s all take a moment to wish Howler Matt Rossi a speedy recovery from whatever’s ailing him! Get well Matt!

Time to teach!

Good Afternoon Friends!



There are only four of ’em, but They’re Important

Jeff Chatlos interrogates himself on the subject of aesthetics:

Q1: Is all material in any given art form equal? [note that I’m using “art form” in it’s broadest sense.]

Q2: Is it fair to compare material within an art form? Can material in one form be reasonably compared with material in another art form?

Q3: Is a “canon” or “hierarchy” valid (or even necessary) when talking about art? If so, how is it created and what is it’s use?

Q4: If I don’t find something interesting or even entertaining, is it still valid, and can I assign it to similar works in a hierarchy? [I may need to redefine this question later]

His answer–to each of them–a qualified “yes”… What follows (in the body of the post, and in comments by the likes of Alan David Doane) is an earnest attempt to defend (what I consider) the indefensible–an objective aesthetic hierarchy.

And yeah, of course, I chimed in with a typo-ridden blast of my own!

Good Afternoon Friends!


5 Questions, The New Batch — Served Up By Matt Rossi

(Soundtrack: Little Red Car Wreck Motor Like A Mother)

1 – give us anywhere at least five of the most influential works of art on you, personally, and how they influenced you.

okay! (I won’t talk about Blithedale again, don’t worry!)

one — It’s A Wonderful Life, and Frank Capra’s oeuvre (especially the Stanwyck movies!) in general…

two — Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, especially It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas… Yes, my first exposure to the strip was through TV, not through the newspaper, and, like everyone else, I can’t wait to, some day, sit down and gleefully atone for this by reading the whole 50 years in a row! Thank you in advance Fantagraphics!

three — Charles Dickens’ massive corpus, especially A Christmas Carol, Pickwick Papers, Bleak House and The Mystery of Edwin Drood

four — Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s (+ friends…) Animal Man, and

five — Perry Miller’s scholarly corpus, beginning with The New England Mind

All of these things (along with Emerson, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, early Cerebus, the Ramones, Hawthorne, Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man, Benet’s fantastic tales, George Stevens’ Alice Adams, LaCava’s Stage Door, Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels and Christmas in Juy, Scorsese’s After Hours, etc. ad infinitum!) helped me to see that a genial/kindly/bemused demeanor and a critical stance toward the world as it is can go hand in hand, and that these two things, when fused together by sheer passion, can produce brilliant narrative!

2 – Since I’ve been musing about it over on the Curmudgeons, are you more or less likely to purchase a work of art (be it a comic book, a novel or a what have you) if you know it will economically reward someone who holds views you find repugnant, even if the art in question does not reflect those views? Why or why not?

I can’t ever think of a time when I’ve given much thought to a creator’s personal likeability/moral worth when deciding whether to buy their work! (Cerebus is an interesting borderline case, I suppose… things get complicated when you’re obsessed with comics lettercols and the lettercols go rancid thanks to a creator’s personality shift from “loveable asshole” to just plain jackanapes!)

3 – Since you brought up Fourier… was Lope de Aguirre a believer in El Dorado or not?

Matt, I just don’t know!

4 – Ever read Dhalgren? If so, what did you think of it?

I haven’t. I really haven’t read any science fiction, aside from a few H.G. Wells books in my teens… (I preferred his History of the World) We’re doing some Heinlein in the 9/11 seminar I’m taking this semester–perhaps this will lead to further exploration… We’ll see!

5 – Okay, because I know you like the Gwen Stacy saga… did you ever read that weird story that hinted that the Gwen Stacy clone wasn’t, but was in fact some poor woman Miles Warren kidnapped and used a retrovirus on?

Matt, you have no idea what kind of a can of worms you’ve opened with this one! I do indeed know the story to which you refer–the Spectacular Spider-Man “Evolutionary War” Tie-in Annual! You can’t imagine how excited I was by this cover! (The issue hit the stands only a couple of months after I had finished assembling a complete run of seventies Amazing Spider-Man, and, already, I had begun to obsess upon the Clone Saga):

No she’s not Peter! Don’t worry anymore, baby…

And fuck the “Young Gods” too, whoever they are!

Imagine my horror when I learned that Gerry Conway himself had returned to dismantle the most perfect anti-nostalgia plot device ever unleashed upon a narrative form/genre that is particularly susceptible to that vice in its most nauseating form! I was angry Matt! Not because they had “messed with the continuity”, or anything like that, but because they had elected to resolve a contradiction that should never have been resolved! Needless to say, I’ll have a lot more to say about this as soon as I get the opportunity to sit down here and rant about Spider-Man: Blue!

Thanks Matt!

Good Night Friends!


5 More Questions–Courtesy of Ed Cunard

(Soundtrack: Red Aunts —#1 Chicken)

1. Why Hawthorne? You’ve got strong inclination towards his work, if I recall correctly.

That’s very tactfully put. I guess you could call my almost incessant ranting that The Blithedale Romance is the “greatest novel ever written” evidence of a strong inclination toward Hawthorne’s work! Now, as to why I do it, well, that’s an awfully complicated question to answer! There’s nothing objective about art appreciation, and I’d be a damned liar if I didn’t admit that the Coverdale-Zenobia relationship resonates with me in very personal ways… But that’s not an answer, that’s a support group overture! So, let’s see if I can do better!

When it comes to narrative/fictional structures, what interests me, more than anything, is the fact that every single one of them can be described as “something that comes out of nothing”. They’re like individuals that way. In fact, identity-formation and storytelling are basically the same thing. Both are forms of lying. Necessary (I do not say “noble”) lies, but lies all the same! However, unlike almost any other skill you could name, narration/self-dramatization is not the kind of thing you ever really want to master… Perfect command of the culinary arts produces great meals–an airtight story, on the other hand, sinks back into the oblivion from whence it sprang. So! What I love is a novel/movie/song/painting/”self”/etc. that makes me feel its/her/his presence, precisely by drawing my attention to the absence at its core! We know that we can deconstruct any narrative. Deconstructon is theoretical jujitsu, using a text’s power against itself. The thing is though, that while this is a horribly barren and mechanical exercise when performed upon an unsuspecting bare-knucks thug of a text (say: “Irish girls do it better”…which I mention because I ran into three different people wrapped in that particular absurdity last night–and, by the way, see Aaron Haspel for more on t-shirt slogans), it feels more like a beautiful interpretive dance (oh, who am I kidding? it feels more like sex!) when the text is complicit in the act!

The Blithedale Romance makes us (me!) feel, simultaneously, the necessity and the horrific injustice of “turning affairs into ballads”, and that’s why I love it! I hope to do half as well someday!

2. What books do you find overrated?

Well, I took so long with that first question, that I’m gonna have to speed through the rest of these, unfortunately, ’cause I’ve got a presentation on Abolitionism to write… So, let’s see, overrated books? Let’s just list a few books that left me cold, for whatever reason: Gulliver’s Travels (the purer the satire, the less I will like it–this is a time-tested formula!-which doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate, or even love, “tactical satire”),
Daniel Deronda (which is odd, because I really love Middlemarch!), Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde just isn’t a novelist…which is not to say that he wasn’t witty), Orlando (again, I like some of Woolf’s other work a lot–particularly To The Lighthouse–but this book is truly sophomoric), Dracula (Okay, I know, Bram isn’t particularly well-repsected anyway, but, man, this is the worst novel I ever dedicated a weekend to!), and… anything by Faulkner.

3. What books do you find underrated?

Well, aside from Blithedale, there’s Dickens’ Christmas Carol, which I don’t think anyone treats as seriously as they should–it anticipates so many modernist narrative techniques; there’s Dashiell Hammett (I’m more and more interested in The Glass Key and The Thin Man lately, which are probably the least respected of his books…), Melville’s Pierre (which recently suffered the indignity of being republished with most of the insanity that makes it great excised, on the grounds that Herman made the changes while of particularly unsound mind!), Jean Toomer’s Cane (which isn’t discussed nearly enough, probably because it fits awkwardly into a “cultural studies” narrative–the text is way too unstable to serve–unproblematically–as an “African-American novel”), lots of others: Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom is probably the greatest autobiography ever written, and people skim it, or ignore it in favour of Douglass’ first flimsy go at self-dramatization, The Narrative of the Life of…; Little Women is much more interesting than is commonly supposed; I love Steven Vincent Benet’s tales (both fantastic and modern) and no one cares about them any more!; I’m totally on the Dawn Powell bandwagon, and I highly recommend every one of her books, especially Dance Night; I also love Frank O’Hara’s poetry (he’s well-respected in academic circles, but not exactly a household name) and Edna St. Vincent Millay (who kind of is a household name, but whose critical rep has suffered in the past fifty years)…

4. What would be your absolute dream job?

That’s easy. Writing novels and getting paid for it.

5. How do you feel about reading works in translation?

I hate it! But there’s no choice is there?

Good Night Friends!


In “Divine Violence” We Trust?

(Soundtrack: –The Distillers )

Well, you may have noticed that I just haven’t been writing much about comics lately–and that I’ve completely reneged on my promise to discuss Squadron Supreme at length! The short explanation? Grad School. It’s as simple as that… The longer explanation, however, is that, thanks to an amazing seminar (“9/11: The Prelude, in Literature and Theory”), I will finally be getting my first opportunity to write an academic paper on comics! In just a few short weeks, I’ve been exposed to so much interesting/insane writing (by Sorel, Benjamin, Derrida, Foucault, Virilio, Hegel, Hobbes, Carl Schmidt, Giorgio Agamben, Richard Ashley, etc) on the related concepts of sovereignty, statecraft/founding, and, most importantly, the theory of “The Unprecedented Decision” (as a founding force which is the source of all political violence, but is not, in itself, “violent”, in the very special sense that these folks are using that term!)

Naturally, I’m going to write on the ways in which these theories apply to Squadron Supreme, Watchmen, and Kingdom Come (with, hopefully, some Morrison Doom Patrol thrown in to complicate matters!)… Needless to say, I’ll be thinking a lot about these works on this page in the very near future–just not quite yet!

This weekend, I’m planning to answer two sets of “Five Questions” + toss out some thoughts about Spider-Man: Blue and nostalgia!

In the meantime, here’s a little presentation I gave last week on “political violence”:

The political gospel according to
Jacques Derrida proclaims the “good news” that “all law is essentially deconstructible”,
casting deconstruction itself in a role that is scarcely distinguishable from
that played by the Holy Spirit in the dispensation which preceded it. Derrida
erases the boundary between Benjamin’s “mythic” and “divine” violence,
demonstrating that, in the final analysis (in the “Final Solution”), the two
modes collapse into one another. He treats all
statecraft as pure incantation, an audacious form of witchcraft that retains
something of Benjamin’s “divine spontaneity”, but which owes more to Emerson’s
model of history-as-biography. As a result, “justice”, for Derrida, becomes
something very like the Kantian ding an
: incorporeal, impossible to institutionalize, but always, in its
nebulous way, available to shed critical light on the phenomenal world.

is extremely respectful of the distinction between “divine” and “mythical”
violence throughout the “The Mystical Foundations of Authority” until, in the post-scriptum, he uses the historical
fact of the Holocaust to smash Benjamin’s dubious binary to bits. From our
vantage point, on this side of the Second World War, it is hard to disagree
with Derrida’s characterization of Benjamin as “too Heideggerian, too
messianico-marxist or archeo-eschatological” (Derrida, ‘Mystical Foundations’,
62); and this prompts the question: why does he wait fifty pages to render this
judgment? Is the “Critique of Violence” really as “polysemic” as Derrida claims
(62)? Or is it, in fact, so unprecedentedly locked into a teleological
discourse that it rushes headlong into a partial (but crucial) insight: namely,
that “history”/”God” is “on the side of” “purely expressive”, “apolitical”,
“expiatory” violence (Benjamin, 249). It
seems clear, in retrospect, that Sorel and Benjamin’s millennial hopes for the
proletarian general strike are thoroughly mytho-ideological in character, and
that, moreover, any violent
manifestation must be both “mythological” (as an expression of human agents
working in concert, unified by some linguistic
fiction, even—or perhaps especially—one
as rudimentary as populist anti-Semitism) and
“divine” (because “sanctioned”, at least for a time, by “history”).

implications of this inseparability between “mythological” and “divine” violence
become much clearer when Derrida undertakes his tentative analysis of the
Declaration of Independence. Here the performative aspect of political
foundation takes center stage. Derrida is forced to marvel at a “people” who
conjure themselves into existence
through a kind of “fabulous retroactivity” (50). When he asks himself what is
meant by “the state”, he comes to the conclusion that it is nothing more (but
also nothing less) than a “state-ment”(53). In this reading, a “declaration of
principles” proves to be more revelatory of the principals involved in the undertaking than their ideas (which
helps to explain how a nation as indebted to Enlightenment values as America
undoubtedly is could develop such an incongruous tradition of ancestor worship
as the cult of the “founding fathers”). In upholding “self-evident truths”,
these men hold up evidence of themselves. “Holed up” in the attic of “truth” is
the naked fact of self-assertion. And yet, for Derrida, this is not at all the
most “fabulous” aspect of the spectacle in question. More fabulous by far is
the infinite regress generated by the series of questions he leaves us with at
the end of the piece:

How is a state made or founded,
how does a state make or found itself? And independence? And the autonomy of
one that both gives itself and signs its own law? Who signs all of these
authorizations to sign? (53)

The author’s only answer to these questions
is to shrug in the general direction of God, the fabled “unmoved mover” of
ontological cul-de-sacs.

his piece on Benjamin, Derrida quotes Pascal to the effect that “custom is the
sole basis for equity, for the simple reason that it is received; it is the
mystical foundation of authority. Whoever traces it to its source annihilates
it”(12). By contrast, the analysis of the Declaration demonstrates that
authority cannot be traced to its
source, and that any attempt to do so only deepens the mystery. Authorization always comes from elsewhere. For
Derrida, the human agents involved in the foundation of states are actors, not architects.

does not mean, however, that nothing is built. After all, a republic—the
“public thing” itself—is called into being (out of “thin air”, or, perhaps,
more accurately, out of the “hot air” generated by the ratifying, and reifying,
enthusiasm of a “good people” in love with their own representations of
themselves). Not all at once, to be sure—and it is important to remember that
the American Republic was founded de
upon two momentous
expressions of political self-confidence (the Declaration and the
Constitution), separated by an anxiety-ridden gap of thirteen years, thus
giving birth to a political tradition in thrall to the impossible dream of
aligning the hopelessly incongruous documents. One might expect that this
fundamental instability would have produced an essentially skeptical attitude,
in America, toward foundations in general; however, in the actual event, the
fact that, by and large, the same group of men were responsible for both halves
of the dyad has anchored it all the more securely in the bedrock of
personality, thus reinforcing a conception of statecraft-as-creative-outburst,
as distinguished from an “objective”/”scientific” model. This is, perhaps, just
as well. After all, this climate furnished Emerson with the tools to anticipate
Derrida by more than a century; as, here, in “History”:

We are always coming up with the
emphatic facts of history in our private experience, and verifying them here.
All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history;
only biography… every law which the state enacts indicates a fact in human
nature (126-127).

insight is Kantian to the core; in fact, it could be argued that he is a more
thoroughgoing Kantian than Kant (who involved himself in certain well-known
absurdities with his creative glosses upon the noumenal). He asserts that
whenever human beings (be they warriors, bureaucrats, or proletarians) come
together to “make history”, they inevitably participate in both “divine” and
“mythic” violence, by assigning a value to the indeterminate “x” that is
justice; and, in doing so, they create the necessary preconditions for
deconstruction, which partakes of the divine without being mythical or violent. Deconstruction finds loopholes
(where myth and divine decree attempt to close
them), it ties ideology in knots, but it creates nothing out of whole cloth. In
fact it does not create at all. It cannot materialize on the phenomenal plane.
It deals with states as it finds them, but it cannot found them.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Walter. “Critique of Violence,” from Selected
Writings, Volume 1, 1913-1926
. Eds. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings.
Harvard UP, 1996.

Stanley. Conditions Handsome and
Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism
. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Jacques. “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundations of Authority’,” in Drucilla
Cornell, Michael Rosenfeld, and David Gray Carlson, eds., Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice. New York: Routledge, 1992.

“Declarations of Independence,”
in Negotiations. Ed. Elizabeth
Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002.

Robert, ed. A Casebook on the Declaration
of Independence

Good Afternoon Friends!


No Fiore–No Towers

(My friend Jamo returns with another peek at the great big comix world beyond my sadly superblinkered purview!)


Here it is Fiore – about a week late but pain on your baby toe if you complain buddy. Sorry if my political bent comes through too loudly. I’m like ol’ Will O’Reilly hunting out the truth but failing to do any of the actual leg work. Willy, this one’s for you. (please print this as well)

In The Shadow Of No Towers – Art Spiegelman

The back cover of Art Spiegelman’s new book In The Shadow of No Towers is a mess. A goat who – not surprisingly – looks like Osama Bin Laden is kicking the shadows of old comic book characters all over the place. Krazy Kat, Charlie Brown, Little Lulu, they’re all air born, in different degrees of revolution. I can see part of Offisa Pup as he falls off the face of the boo back into our world. They’re part of the news story that didn’t make CNN or Fox when the Twin Towers collapsed, this “disinterred the ghosts of some sunday supplement stars” (8). They’re not free to run amok though, not as far as Spiegelman’s concerned. For him, their role is one of guide to mediate the No Towers world which he is a citizen of.

Spiegelman is no longer the distanced observer of history as he was in Maus. He is now an ill-prepared participant in History as it unfolds blocks away from his home. This is not a cohesive story, No Towers is a op-ed piece of comic biography (or the almost indefinable Current Affairs label on the bar code). This is Spiegelman’s dialgoue with us, with America, and himself. A dialogue that tries to find ground but which keeps falling from under it.

The image in the comic that can be used as a template for the entire comic is not the skeletal red tower weaving, almost dancing as it falls, but the picture found in Strip 8 of a miniture Spiegelman drilling a hole into a large cracked head of Spiegelman while nearby a mallet bearing George W. Bush happily looks on, and unbeknowst to him, the Statue of Liberty is pulled away by a crane (bye bye freedom bye bye). Spiegelman narrates: “I’ve consumed “News” till my brain aches. The papers have confirmed that the towers I saw really did fall.” This confirmation is stretching those cracks in his head because this official confirmation from the papers gets Spiegelman no closer to comprehending what happened to him. In Strip 2, Spiegelman – in Mouse mask – is slumped in front of a poster declaring his brain missing “last seen in Lower-Manhattan, mid-September 2001.” No side offers him support, he’s lost his identity, and his brain has just taken the last bus to Canada.

He tries retracing his steps, recounting where he was the moment the first plane hit. Unlike Spiegelman’s father in Maus, who begrudingly told his story, Spiegelman himself is the problem. He cannot pull the events into a coherent order. So each strip is really several strips. Some three panel stories (The New Normal) or one panel (Waiting for the other shoe to Drop). This is Spiegelman as reporter, each Strip representive – not of the comics page – but an comic version of the newspaper. This is his official confirmation of the events. Not Fox, not CNN, not, ulp, Dan Rather and CBS’ confirmation.

The incoherence of these comics is what should be celebrated. The Twin Towers event isn’t just a terrorist attack by Al Quaeda, sponsored by Bin Laden to punish America. Three years later look how far away the United States has gotten from that scenario. Now Bush has Americans in Iraq, he has them in Afganistan, they’re thinking about Iran, North Korea. Spiegelman, doing his impression of a cheerleader in red tank top and blue starred mini-skirt. says “I can’t seem to get with the program…if I won anything, I suppose it got lost in the mail” (Strip 8). The first question is how can Spiegelman get with the program when they’re so many of them being thrown at us – convoluting already convoluted situations.

The second, and this one I’ll answer, is what programs are U.S. citizens watching. At 5 pm, September 11, 2004, Fox News was running a segment on Celebrity Justice – Are Celebrities getting away with murder! ABC was running College Football, CNN was hurricane alerts, and Bravo was Queer Eye for The Straight Guy. Of all the programs on the third anniversary, only the Queer Eyes make sense. They’re showing us that we can clean ourselves up and live again. What we can learn from the television that day is that it’s business as usual, now that those ol’ Twin Towers ain’t pulling the ratings in like they used to. The dust has settled and everyone has to move on. Get the economy rolling, go shopping, cheer on the fab five as they get a touch down.

The comic supplement at the end of No Towers appears to be another of these diversions. Spiegelman’s choices aren’t real escapes. The Yellow Kid in “The War Scare in Hogan’s Alley” where children are lined up ready for war. Or “The Glorious Fourth of July” which ends in explosions, mayhem, and a character stating: “I detest the fourth of July.” Even Little Nemo gets into the action, as he walks through a scaled down New York, and one of his oversized friends topples sky scrapers. These comic characters who’ve escaped to help Spiegelman have ended up reinforcing his insecurities.

Orange Alert! Orange Alert! Terrorist Ignatz the Mouse is on the loose! Offisa W. Pup help! Krazy Kat in trouble! (Igantz throws his brick. Krazy hit. Pup arrests Ignatz. Repeat. Yikes if that’s a world scenario.)

Jamie Popowich

(And daring readers don’t forget on the back of the first Krazy Kat Collection from Fantagraphics Spiegelman makes an analogy about Ignatz being like Osama Bin Laden)

Good Afternoon Friends!


5 Questions–No Not That Five Questions

(Soundtrack: Team Dresch– Personal Best…kind of obsessed with this album lately, especially “Screwing Your Courage” and “Hate the Christian Right”–incredibly invigorating stuff…Ditkoesque in its capacity to induce “self-fission” with inscrutable simplicity, you know?)

Here’s an exercise that I’ve seen before, but never participated in… That’s right, the ol’ “ask me five questions and I’ll tell ya no lies” has broken to new memery over at John Commonplacebook’s site… John has obliged me with an interesting set of queries, and I’ll be glad to pass the interrogative love along to anyone who invites me to, down there in the comments section!

(Oh, and by the way, if you’re looking for thoughts on Mark Gruenwald, you don’t need me anymore! Scott Tipton is doing yeoman work on this topic–this week the focus is on an apocalyptic issue of What If?, the Hawkeye miniseries–which Gruenwald also pencilled, and quite innovatively too!–; and “Captain America no more!”)

Okay, onward with John’s questions!

1. How did you come to be interested in American literature, history, etc.? (I’m very interested generally in how academics who focus on one country/culture chose that culture…I have a very short attention span and generally flit around too much for one scholarly/critical focus, though I suppose I am generally more interested in British culture than any other. But then this is your question and not mine so I’ll shut the hell up and let you answer!)

Gotta blame Charles Schulz and Studio Age Hollywood–especially Capra–(via Burlington, VT’s PBS station’s nightly late shows) for this… American culture (not what America is, but what “it” thinks it should be) has fascinated me since as far back as I can remember. The idea that the self (like the state) is never a finished project just leapt out at me from these works before I hit double digits, and long before I acquired the vocabulary with which to begin thinking about the wonderfully mixed sense of exhilaration/malaise they afforded me… That didn’t happen until I met Hawthorne, Melville, and, especially Emerson–all of which, of course, happened long before I decided to stop splitting my time between the temp agency and the welfare office and go to university at 23… Naturally, American History/Lit was the only way to go!

2. You talk a lot about the romance tradition and post-Reformation culture, so I’m curious as to your favorite pre-modern books?

I have to admit, the pre-modern world of stable hierarchies, communitarian values/standards, and the peace of mind that comes with the sense that “there’s nothing to be done” makes me sick! If Foucault makes the mistake of romanticizing the “honest brutality” of the Middle Ages, I guess you could say that I go just as far off the rails in the opposite direction… The ever-present threat of insanity/fragmentation that has accompanied the “construction of the subject” is like the breath of life to me! Whatever people were doing before the Reformation, they weren’t living, as far as I’m concerned…

However–obviously, they did write some interesting stuff! Lucretius is awesome. Ditto Augustine. I won’t say the Bible, ’cause I’m only familiar with the KJ, and that’s the Reformation text par excellence, but of course I’d love to be able to read the New Testament in Greek! Plato is evil, but I can’t honestly say that I don’t get a certain thrill out of reading the Dialogues, especially the early, “more Socratic” ones…

3. Who would play you in The David Fiore Story?

Hmm… You mean the film adaptation of Darkling I Listen, in which the protagonist disappears from his own life story for most of the last reel? I can’t honestly say I’ve thought about who would play Mike Borden… I know who should play Dawn (Hope Davis–she’s a bit too old now, I guess, but that’s a Hollywood tradition!), Tina (Anna Paquin), Paula (Kate Winslet would be good), Heidi (Jennifer Jason Leigh, also too old, but ideal), and Eric (a slimmed-down Jack Black would be perfect)… but, me? Maybe Mark Ruffalo?

4. Name some places you’d love to visit.

You know–I hate the idea of going anywhere! I’m thirty, and I have yet to tire of any aspect of my life. Fate dropped me in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and my dream is to go back there as soon as possible and put in another forty years attempting to fathom the mysteries of that particular place!

5. Describe your ideal house.

Hmm…I like a house with heat in winter and an actual floor in the bathroom (there have been times when I have not had these things, you understand!) Beyond that, well, ideally, it would be well-ventilated, sparsely decorated, and feature no primary colours whatsoever! Most importantly, I want to share it with Christine + as many animals as possible!

Good Night Friends!


News From the Outer (Comics) Blogosphere

John Commonplacebook offers an outline for the first movement of a “Superman-for-adults” opus! (I’d buy it!)… he also assembles the ultimate cross-company superhero strike force and declares his preference for mid-to-late 19th century living (or, at least, for the perspective on the world that was available to inhabitants of that period in Western history)

Gardner Linn (September 16th) traces the respective downfalls of one-time “hot creators” Van Gogh, Shakespeare, Faulkner, and John (as in “Gospel of”)

And the splendid Matt Rossi moves toward the center of comics-blogospheric gravity by joining the Howling Curmudgeons

Good Afternoon Friends!


Off-the-cuff Links

(Soundtrack: The Rondelles– Fiction Romance, Fast Machines)

So much going on today!

Grant Morrison’s biggest fans are not at all happy with his Arthur comments! They were preceded in these sentiments by the always wonderful John Commonplacebook… My own position, of course, is that that guy who’s calling himself “Grant Morrison” has no special connection to the works attributed to the author with that name–’cause the author is dead!

Interesting piece on The Filth by Gary Wilkinson over at Ninth Art, marred only by the occasional facile statement, such as:

There’s also a comic within a comic, STATUS QUORUM, which illustrates the utter banality of the characters and plot from comics past compared to the cutting edge of now (ie THE FILTH itself) as the characters from STATUS QUORUM interact with those of THE FILTH.

Come on man! Status Quorum isn’t just there to beat on the superhero past! If I thought there was nothing more to it than that, I’d have been pretty annoyed.. In case you’re wondering what I did make of it, well, some of it is here. Basically, as far as I’m concerned, “Secret Original” is Buddy Baker, and the interpolated comics are not a parody of the silver age, they’re an attempt on Morrison’s part to further interrogate his own “Coyote Gospel”!

On the other hand, I can definitely appreciate Gary’s sentiments here:

Each person approaching a text will bring with them different experiences that will affect how he perceives the work. For me, but maybe not for you, THE FILTH was deeply affecting. Some things I took out of it were not even intended by the authors. While reading, I became convinced that the inclusion of a pair of artists who enjoy playing with filth may be a key to unlocking the text. I asked Morrison why he used Gilbert and George for Man Green/Man Yellow. “They crawled up out of my subconscious in that form. It just seemed right,” he explained. Ah, well…

Meanwhile, Ed Cunard has responded to my “anti-respectability manifesto”. It’s a good post, and I don’t have too many problems with it really–I’m certainly the last person to argue that “comics should be for kids” (on the contrary, I’ve always argued that superheroes are a particularly unsuitable genre for children–as distinguished from the “intelligent fourteen year-old” that I think we should all try to be for as long as we can!)

Ed and I part ways (or rather, we see the same path, we just disagree on where it will take us), however, right here:

You wouldn’t know it from reading the New York Times Book Review now, but there was a period in time where prose fiction was considered substandard and not worthy for discussion by the literary establishment of the day, who preferred the poetic form to the novel. However, as prose became legitimized, the canon itself was changed to a more catholic form – now, I don’t really see the day where comics are taught alongside Oscar Wilde in every school in the country, but I do feel that there are comics works suitable for academic study – as Dave obviously does as well. However, where he sees the legitimacy of the medium imposing some kind of standard that all creators will shoot for literary acclaim, I see the chance for people to “keep on keepin’ on,” and I – optimistically, true – hope that the works deserving of attention will find an easier time getting that acclaim. Right now, where comics are perceived as illegitimate, there are people out there trying desperately to find that critical acclaim, and in most cases, their intentions are completely transparent – for example, I had the misfortune to pick up a comic called “An Open Place,” or something, that is trying so desperately to be IMPORTANT that it’s simply laughable. I give readers the credit to be smart enough to know the difference.

See, my position is that the novel was terribly damaged by its accession to cultural respectability! Most of my favourite novelists: E. Bronte, Dickens, Melville, Hawthorne…even Henry James, Joseph Conrad and Dash Hammett… were considered practitioners of an “illegitimate” art form (James and Conrad are sort of on the cusp, but they certainly weren’t around for the novel’s true “baptism of respectability” in the twenties; Hammett was, but, in his case, he was working in a specific form–the “pulp”–that avoided the curse of “respectability”) Now, this has a lot to do with my personal aesthetics–and I can’t force anyone to share that with me!–basically, I have no use for the “pale affirmations-through-negation” of the modern “literary” genre–and it is a genre, believe me! (Marc Singer has referred to this as the literature of “little epiphanies”, and I think that’s apt)… I like my complexities and subtleties to emerge out of “concurrent hysterics” (can you tell by the way I write this page?) I privilege the generation of melodramatic intensity (nourished, to be sure, by a truly creative irony) in art over the kind of lame-ass diffidence that masquerades as irony in a lot of novels written in these more “respectable” times…

Now, of course, no one is forcing our “literary stylists” to write the way they do–and Paul Auster is a perfect example of a guy who, right now, is writing novels the way I think they should be written…precisely because he harkens back to the medium’s disreputable past. Paul Thomas Anderson is doing the same thing in films–while the Coens render sly hommage to the Hollywood genres, PTA is actually generating the kind of hyberbolic power that Capra, Dieterle, Borzage, and many other directors did regularly in pre-Cahiers Hollywood.

Jesus! I’d better go! And I didn’t even get a chance to discuss
Neilalien’s thoughts on Strange #1 (gonna pass on that one I think…where’s Morrison when we need him indeed?) and The (Veitch) Question (you may be right about this one Neil–but I have to see for myself!)

Oh yeah–and Dan Jacobson is having fun (and entertaining us!) with the Defenders issues which provided the catastrophic backstory for Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme–which I’ll get back to any day now, I promise you!

Also–Todd Murry discusses Following Cerebus… Wonderful discussion here…now I’m convinced that I have to get it!

Good Evenin’ Friends!


Boiling Over:
In Which Fiore Sort of Defends Bendis’ Daredevil for a Second Time, Whilst Becoming More and More Convinced that he will never read the book in Question!

(Soundtrack: The Bobbyteens — Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’)

This little rant has nothing to do with comics (some would argue that nothing I write has much of anything to do with the medium–and they may well be right–but I know my American lit goddamnit!) and everything to do with a critique of a specific TPB… Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Adam Stephanides back to the program!

Two things bothered me about this post.

Here’s number one:

Well, I finally read Daredevil: King of Hell’s Kitchen, the trade paperback collecting the arc of which Daredevil #56 was the first issue. And I’m sorry to disappoint anybody looking for blood, but I didn’t hate it. Which is not to say that I liked it, or would be willing to spend money for it; but I have to confess that I found it mildly interesting. In any case, whether because this time I knew not to expect anything like real literature, or because right now I don’t feel compelled to be an aesthetic missionary, I have no urge to dissect King of Hell’s Kitchen the way I did its first few pages.

“Real Literature”, Adam? With apologies to Foreigner (and Kathleen Hanna, who, as “Julie Ruin”, did an awesome cover of the bloated track I’m about to allude to)–I wanna know what that is… Please, O reluctant missonary, don’t leave savages like myself to burn in our ignorance!

What distinguishes “real literature” from its opposite?

But here’s what really bugged me:

In issue #59, one of the yakuza says “Killing an American hero? This has never been done.” Bendis’s overall aim seems to be to combine superheroes with the hardboiled city-as-cesspool school of crime writing (viz. Milla’s speech about how “the city” has taken everything away from Matt); and this latter presupposes an amoral cosmos. On the other hand, to state that heroes never die implies a cosmos that’s fundamentally moral. You can’t have a hardboiled crime story in which it’s guaranteed that heroes never die: like the proverbial irresistible force and immovable object, these two can’t both exist in the same universe. (Please note that I’m not objecting on the grounds that it’s unrealistic; I have no desire to revisit that argument.)

“You can’t have a hardboiled crime story in which it’s guaranteed that heroes never die.”

What are you talking about man? Can you possibly be unaware that just about all of the important items in the hardboiled canon come to us via indestructible first-person narrators? (who’ve obviously survived whatever ordeal they are describing!) Are you confusing hard-boiled literature with films like Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard? Sure, James M. Cain wrote the way you describe–but Cain is a pretty minor figure when compared to the true masters of the genre–Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (with Ernest Hemingway lurking on the more “respectable” fringe of the movement). By your definition none of these writers is “hardboiled”! As a person who has read each of their novels several times, and obsessed upon the hard-boiled aesthetic for years, I just could not let this pass! From what Adam himself has revealed about the series, it sounds to me as if Bendis has got the genre’s cosmology down cold. These stories dramatize the moral stalemate–it’s protagonist vs. corruption, and neither the hero nor the “darkness” ever wins out…(sometimes–fairly often in Hammett, actually–the hero becomes implicated in the corruption, but it never crushes him, or his capacity to pass judgment on the world!) Chandler conceived of his protagonist–Philip Marlowe–as a modern-day knight, incapable of successfully completing his quest of purifying the world, but absolutely dedicated to his knightly praxis…almost out of spite! Sounds a lot like the superhero genre no? (Especially at its most Ditkoesque) I’ve been saying that for years!

Good Evening Friends!