Month: January 2005

Wallls of Sound

Walls of Sound

(Soundtrack: Elastica)

David Allison has a fun post up about Elastica and laziness, and this got me thinking about my one problem with the band’s amazing debut album… Unlike a lot of the feelings/thoughts that I try to capture here, this one is easy to put into words– “Indian Song”…I fuckin’ hate it!

My first thought,  whenever I chance upon this CD and see those women lined up in front of a Spectorish brick wall is, of course, of “Line Up” itself… and believe me, this is a very pleasant thought indeed… “S.O.F.T.”, “Hold Me”, “All-Nighter”, “Waking Up”, and all of the rest follow so quickly on its heels that I begin to wonder how the album could ever have sunk to the bottom of the disorganized mess I laughingly call my “audio library”… I get so excited that I fairly run toward the CD player, only to be reminded, just as I pop it open, that, if I actually go through with the operation, I will be condemning myself to a rendez-vous with inexplicable New Age hell in about twenty-five minutes…  Oh yes–“It is waiting”… and it sounds like a really bad Tears for Fears song with bored female vocals… Why did they do it?

Sometimes, I just toss the CD aside…on other occasions I have been known to program all 15 of the other songs in their natural succession, just so that I can pretend that track 8 never existed…but the one thing I will never do is ever listen to that song again…

And then I began thinking–this could almost be a meme! Everyone must have a few of these “tragically flawed” CD’s in their collections, right? Golden Bowls, Henry James would call ’em… It’s almost worse than the proverbial album with only a couple of good songs! For instance–wouldn’t London Calling be so much better without “Lover’s Rock”? It manifestly does not rock–and can anyone seriously claim to love it? What about Rumours? Maybe I’m the only Fleetwood Mac fan under forty–but even I can’t stand “Don’t Stop”. I actually solved this problem a few years ago by burning a “DS-less” version of the album–so now my experience of “Second Hand News”, “Never Going Back Again”, “Go Your Own Way”, “I Don’t Want to Know” is free from fear… Before I came up with this solution, I often used to just opt for Tusk (which has no flaws) instead! Also–New Kingdom’s Heavy Load would get a lot more playing time around here if “Mother Nature” wasn’t there to cast its lame shadow over all of its wonderful neighbours…

What say you?

Good Night Friends!


Here Comes the Sun–and Some Gloom, For Good Measure

Here Comes the Sun–and Some Gloom, For Good Measure

(Soundtrack: Pixies — Doolittle)

David Allison–aka Big Sunny D–
returns!  And clearly, despite his extended absence from blogging circles, the man has not been idle!

For one thing–he has co-created a comic strip that is set to appear in an upcoming issue of Commercial Suicide!

Also, he may have set a record in delayed-memaction, responding to a set of my queries regarding Punch-Drunk Love, Morrison, Clowes, grad school, breakfast, and the Jacobites more than six months after they were sent out into the ether…moreover, the wait–particularly with regard to his musings on the film–was worth it!

Welcome back David–am I the only one who begins to fear the worst when my favourite bloggers disappear? The Forager has given me numerous scares of this sort, and I know that Steven Wintle actually retired, so we can probably just assume that he’s alright…but how can we be sure? Right now I’m fretting a little bit about Bruce Baugh…and where the hell is Jeff Chatlos? I know, I know–these people are just busy with their real lives (and some of ’em even have the effrontery to incorporate this “I-can-take-it-or-leave-it approach” to blogging into their online personae!)

Ah well…it’s just a fact of life–the more people (and animals) you care about, the more likely you are to develop an ulcer! Take last night, f’rinstance–I was strolling across the campus, on my way to meet up with some new friends at The Beggar’s Banquet (which is an awesome place, incidentally), and I found myself face to face (or, rather,
beak-to-knee)  with one of these:

(That’s a juvenile bald eagle my friends…)

I walked right up to him/her and we stared at each other for at least five minutes… Sure, we’ve all had encounters like this with pigeons and gulls, and (for me, lately) ducks… but this is a fuckin’ bird of prey man! How could this happen? Well, I’ll tell ya–this flying shark was perched on a gushing pile of rabbit entrails, and wasn’t about to leave them without a fight, that’s why. That’s what drew me to the spot, initially–the blood… thinking maybe I could play superhero to a creature in need. But since the creature in question no longer had a head, I switched into awe-mode pretty quickly… Muthafuck that food-chain!

And speaking of hell–here’s a link to our first course-blog entry on Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (covering issues #1-3)… The post is a mixture of some old assertions of mine and some new questions that emerged as I re-read the book this morning. Please, I encourage each and every interested party to participate in the fun (although I’m kind of hoping that we can avoid spoilers, for now!)

For those of you who are following along at home, and are now wondering about this departure from the syllabus, well… it seems that Squadron Supreme went out of print, sometime between last November (when I placed my order with the bookstore) and the beginning of this semester… Jumping to Watchmen gives me a couple of weeks to figure a way out of this dilemma… This course needs Gruenwald’s book as much as that eagle needed her/his kill!

Have a great weekend friends!

The Aesthetics of Embellishment

The Aesthetics of Embellishment

(Soundtrack: Pixies — Live in Minneapolis, 2004)

Tim O’Neil has another “comics-history”-type post up today, and I must say that, unlike yesterday’s effort, I find this one rather  platitudinous. Yes, nostalgia is a big problem in the comics industry today. Yes, New Frontier does suck–hard-style–for precisely this reason (and no, Cole Odell, those John Henry interludes don’t help to “complicate” Cooke’s nostalgia at all…they are there in order to give Cole Odells a sad little defense, just in case one of their friends points out that they appear to be longing for Pleasantville–and this strategy might even work, if their interlocutor is the kind of person who found Pleasantville “hard-hitting”–i.e. if they are particularly feeble-minded..***.p.s.*** here I must add that Cole has presented a pretty interesting defense–upon narratological grounds–of this lack of integration in NF, in Tim’s comment-threads!). But no–critical interest in the Silver Age is not merely a by-product of nostalgia, and the key to my disagreement with Tim can be found in his weird dismissal of all “continuity-obsessed” storytelling as “fanfic”.

I would love to rescue that term itself from the tender mercies of critics like Tim, who are absolutely in thrall to a modernist conception of “The Artist” as somehow “self-generating”. Let’s put it this way–I’m sure Aeschylus would be highly insulted by the idea that any storyteller who sets up for business within the narrative confines of his/her influences/inspirations (and lacks the good grace to at least turn the whole thing into a “secret-handshake” for the iniatiated by encrypting this scaffolding into an ostensibly “new” structure) is merely indulging in a “wank-fest”. No. No. I’m not comparing Roy Thomas to Aeschylus. I think what he and his fellow Marvelites did was even more interesting than the Big A’s straight-up brand of ancient Greek fanfic–because they invited their readers  (through what I call “editorial call and response”) into the narrative process itself. When I talk about “The Silver Age”–I’m not talking about any specific “events” that I’d like to see Alex Ross embalm for me, I’m talking about this unprecedented mode of storytelling, which could even, in the hands of masters like Thomas and his collaborators (“professional” and epistolary), precipitate the involvement (in every sense of the word) of a whole new generation of readers in the saga of a “Golden Age” they never longed for.

Good Afternoon Friends

Are These Some Knives I See Before Me?

Are These Some Knives I See Before Me?

(Soundtrack: Guns n’ Roses — Appetite For Destruction)

One of the most interesting aspects of this very interesting Tim O’Neil piece on creeping nihilism in the superhero genre in the late-eighties/early nineties is the author’s contention that:

I’ve an idea that it might be possible to pinpoint the origins of this ideological breakdown to the advent and extreme popularity of Wolverine. As a fixture of Marvel’s best-selling Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine as easily the most popular new character of the late 70s. But the problem with Wolverine, from a practical point of view, is that regardless of the fact that he’s a character in a children’s comic book, his major power is a set of razor-sharp adamantium claws, he is a character who possesses the potential to kill. Not that any superhero doesn’t have enough power to kill any number of people, but the fantastical nature of most super-powers keep the issue relatively moot. Super-strength is for fighting the Hulk, not for killing thousands of people in downtown London in the space of an hour. But everyone knows what a knife is for: knives cut people. Knives can kill.

I think he’s got a very good point here. One of my problems with Watchmen (as a genre statement) has always been that Moore took superheroes (which, in my reading, work best as aspects of “existential romance”) and encased them in flesh (retroactively redefining “decisionist phantasmagorias” as mere “power fantasies”)… Again–I like Watchmen, but I deplore the book’s influence…not only upon Liefeld and the Image crew, but also upon critics–like Geoff Klock & Tim O’Neil–who assume that Moore’s interpretation of the Silver Age is correct… I think he’s dead wrong (or, let’s just say, he’s right about Kirby, but wrong about Ditko and most of the other creators who made the Silver Age interesting to me!), but that’s a battle for another day… What I want to get back to, for now, is Tim’s pre-Moore, “materialist” explanation for the advent of “the Darkness”/murderousness in superhero comics. That’s right, it all comes down to these fuckers–

and it’s not their attitudes either–it’s their “powers” themselves…

It’s a very persuasive idea. These guys just don’t lend themselves to the staging of existential dramas. This isn’t Cap and his shield, mired in a personal “cold war”, struggling to define what it is, exactly, that he is “sworn to protect”. This is a shooting war–and the targets are, for the first time, I would argue, purely external… Wolverine and the Punisher aren’t “their own worst enemies”–they’re yoursif they decide that you need killing! And, contra Tim, I would contend that it is with the accession of these two figures to prominence that the superhero genre becomes Manichean! This is why I consider Gruenwald and Morrison’s various efforts in the late eighties so important (if ultimately doomed, at least in the context of their own time)–these were the two writers who saw which way the wind was blowing, and attempted to save the genre for “romance”!

Just as an aside though–there was a major character walking around the Marvel Universe with a sharp-edged weapon before 1974:

Image Hosted by

I always loved the way they tried to deal with that–sure, you can have a pitch-black vorpal weapon, but if you actually dare to use it on anyone, you’re done! (thanks to a convenient curse/stipulation that the wielder of the blade must never shed blood–and, of course, in the late eighties, Simonson plunged into that aspect of the legend to the hilt!)

Good Afternoon Friends


You Be Apples–I’ll Be Oranges!

I Got A Rock…

(Soundtrack: Hole — Pretty on the Inside)

Here’s an interesting discussion:

It started with Eve (in response to an e-mail from our dearly blog-parted Sean Collins), moved on to Jim’s, ran head on into a comic book cross-over at Peiratikos, rattled around in the comments section there, and then boomeranged back to the person who threw it

Let’s see now–where to excerpt?

How about this?

First of all, it might be helpful to point out that you can think two
things are different without thinking one is better than the other. For
example, I think men are different from women. I don’t think guys are
better than chicks, or vice versa. I don’t, as you all probably know,
think that homosexual relationships are good, whereas heterosexual
relationships can be (although I totally agree with Camassia’s comments
here about
the ways in which sinful relationships can be infused with love and
apparently-okay relationships infused with sin). But I think, actually,
that you can agree with everything I’ll say in the rest of this post
and still think gay sex is a-okay.

I want to say more than that, really. Actual existing queer people don’t all
sign on to this belief that homosexuality is mirror-heterosexuality. It
might be worthwhile to listen to people who do think that, even absent
Societal Prejudice, a guy who wants guys would not end up identical to
a guy who wants girls. It might be worthwhile to listen to people who
have actually dated chicks and dudes (hi! *waves*) when we say that it
really isn’t the same.

Are the differences cultural constructs? 1) Probably not all of them, yo.
If they’re cultural constructs, doesn’t that just push the weight of
explanation back one level? Why these cultural constructs and not
3) If they are cultural constructs, do we really want to
live without them? Do we want an androgynous world, or do we find men
and women, ladies and dudes, sexy?

Okay now–first, of course, it goes without saying that when Eve talks about “sin” in connection with consensual sex, most of us just have to assume that this is a private little joke between her and her God and move on to the substance… She’s made it easy for us, in this instance, and I thank her for that!

Which doesn’t make me any more receptive to the way that she takes an undeniable fact of human existence–i.e. that we are all the same, and also all different (from each other, as well as from ourselves)–and essentially runs wild with it… “Essentially” is the key term there. Eve thinks that her (presumably very different) sexual/romantic experiences with men and women are somehow translatable into universal laws. Needless to say, “I don’t own her laws”…

Just because you had different things in the back of your head pushing you toward involvement with persons of different sexes doesn’t mean that this is always the case–especially when the prime mover behind your “heterosexuality” is God. Identity is relational, and of course it matters who you’re with (I can’t be “me” without “you”), but our search for that “you” (that difference) is always the same… It seems to me that this is the real source of your divergent conceptions of these experiences. One type of relationship was for you, the other was for Glory. I think you’re totally off the rails with this “heterosexuality is reducible to the threat/blessing of pregnancy” thing!  Who says that intercourse has to play any part at all in a heterosexual relationship? I don’t deny that it usually does–but look, I know for a fact that I could take it or leave it… my desire for women is not yoked to a need to “penetrate” them… For God’s sake Eve–you’re like the anti-Dworkin! Okay ladies–get married and submit!

Of course  homosexuality isn’t “mirror-heterosexuality”, but that’s because there’s nothing to mirror! We don’t start with a snapshot of a couple in our minds (or, if we do, we’ve got even bigger problems!)… I don’t wake up and say to myself–“I need me a woman”–I say, “I feel cut off from life”… The results of each individual’s (and each individual’s individual) attempts to negotiate her/his release from this (ultimately unalienable) state of alienation will be radically different from one another (I agree with Eve that the terms of this negotiation will always be influenced/determined by pressure from “without”, and also that it doesn’t matter), but the feeling itself (the only thing that isn’t a construct!) never changes, and never goes away. Sure, comparing any relationship to any other relationship is like comparing apples to oranges; but, on the other hand, as consumables, both of these things are going to the same place–and neither of them is going to “satisfy” you for long… The saddest thing about Eve’s conception of male-female relationships is that she doesn’t seem to see them as apples or oranges, but more like rocks that God is making her swallow… Fuck! I’d spit that thing right back into the eye of the divine and go off on a doomed quest of my own making!

I don’t have any problem with the idea that none of us ever gets exactly what he/she wants–but I think it’s insane to let ourselves be chewed up by guilt over something as natural as wanting! 

Good Evening Friends!

Um–this is more interesting than anything I have to say!

Um–this is more interesting than anything I have to say!

Don’t miss Matt Rossi’s meditations on Fourier and his Amazing American Friends at Fantastic Metropolis! This is a guy who believed that it was in humanity’s power to transform the world’s oceans into a delicious reservoir of lemonade! (personally, I don’t think the Lipton lobby would ever allow it to happen!)

Good Afternoon Friends!


The Mesageboard Giveth and the Messageboard…

The Mesageboard Giveth and the Messageboard…

A huge part of my retraining over the past year has been an attempt to dissociate my idea of the Comics Journal from this kind of foolishness. The thing is–I guess it could all be some kind of bizarre “anti-fanboy” performance art. We can only hope. But when I read something as earnest-sounding as this:

Best thing I’ve seen, and not because he’s a friend, is Brian Wood’s + Cloonan’s DEMO. I can deal with slight powers now and again – but based more in this reality.

my faith wavers.

Lord, help my suspension of disbelief…

Good Afternoon Friends!


Hate the Aesthetic Right

Hate the Aesthetic Right

(Soundtrack: Buzzcocks — Singles Going Steady)

From the Comics Journal Messageboard comes Robert Fiore’s Adventures in Nomenclature. Check it out and see what you think of his “liberal/literal” distinction (I proposed Dave Sim’s real-fantasy spectrum as an alternative). I find the whole exercise far too polemical (of course, he wouldn’t be the first Fiore to come under this kind of fire!), but I can’t entirely discount any system that places Alex Ross’ work at the “wrong” extreme of the aesthetic continuum… I just cracked open Kingdom Come–which we’ll be discussing in class next week!–and I must tell you that “wrong” is the only word that adequately describes my feelings at this moment. So…so…wrong…

The really interesting thing about this particular type of conversation is that proponents of an “anti-realistic” aesthetic in cartooning (with whom I am in complete sympathy) are often the same people that decry the kinds of “anti-realistic” storytelling elements in superhero comics (“dynamic stasis”, retcons, and the whole romance/symbolist mode in general…) that fascinate me. What does this mean?

Oh. Right. It means give ’em something “cartoony”, but straightforward, with clear “development” and a “payoff”–like, oh, New Frontier, for instance, and they’ll eat it up! (unless they’ve written off superhero comics entirely–which at least has the virtue of making sense!)

Good Afternoon Friends!


Spotting Superman Blue in the Black

Spotting Superman Blue in the Black

You know, every once in a while, it hits me that Frank Black really oughtta write the occasional superhero comic:

Billy Radcliffe didn’t go to town
And when we looked up
He was looking right down
Catching blue in his eyes that were brown
Billy Radcliffe
(Billy Radcliffe)

Billy Radcliffe owned by the state
From his first breath
To the cemetery gate
He was the first boy born in space
Billy Radcliffe
(Billy Radcliffe)

Billy Radcliffe very first one
He really had lived just a cursed son
A split in half man sang the cherubim
Billy Radcliffe
(Billy Radcliffe)

Billy Radcliffe saw what the Devil man he saw
He saw a spot of blue in black of the eye of the Lord Such a cruel love
Is the kind that has wrought oh Billy
Billy Radcliffe

Billy sadly didn’t live long
He had to stay there
Because he wasn’t too strong
He’s stepping out the door
Blowing up like bomb
Billy Radcliffe
(Billy Radcliffe)

Billy Radcliffe very first one
Really a hatched man a light switch son
A split in half man sang the cherubim

Billy Radcliffe very first one
A split in half man sang the cherubim
I bet you cried when he died now didja
Now didja ?

Now Billy Radcliffe saw what the Devil man he saw
He saw a spot of blue in black of the eye of the Lord Oh Billy
Billy Radcliffe saw what the Devil man had
And I feel very bad for
William Radcliffe

Of course–he’s pretty busy…

One thing I do know for sure–there is no better soundtrack for Grant Morrison’s work than a Black album (although I would be remiss if I failed to mention here that sometime-commenter Joe has argued that wonderful things can result from the combination of Animal Man and Tool’s Lateralus–I plan to test out his theory this semester…)

Also–over on Comic Book Politics, I waded into the problem of reading Watchmen allegorically (violently opposed–in a nice way, of course!–by Marc Singer and Steven Berg) by suggesting that:

I’m no more a fan of [this kind of reading] than Marc or Steven are, but I think that, in this particular case, the work almost begs for it! It’s kind of the Magic Mountain of superhero comics… but here’s the thing: if you pursue my analogy, Dreibeg & Juspeczyk (you left her out!) become a kind of dual-Hans Castorp… not stand-ins for any philosophy, but protean figures stranded in the labyrinth of allegories that Moore builds around them “while they were sleeping”, as it were…

now, what do we do with that assertion? (assuming that people don’t just discard it out of hand)–well, I’m not sure…but I’ll know more in a few weeks!

Whaddya think?

Over on my own courseblog, I’m still setting the stage for the discussions to come, with some good old-fashioned nods toward Plato, Anne Hutchinson, Jonathan Edwards, and the general direction of The Sublime. (I like to think that these will at least make a modicum of sense to the fine people who endured my two frantic lectures this week!)

Happy MLK Day (in advance) Friends!


Enlighten Up

Enlighten Up

(Soundtrack: The Distillers —Sing Sing Death House, featuring the first punk song that I’ve ever heard about the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, which contains the magnificent lyric–“The thing about destiny/Is it never sets you free”… “Bullet and the Bullseye” is pretty fucking amazing too, in a completely different way… Brody Dalle is definitely the new Courtney Love–and, believe me, there isn’t much higher praise that I am capable of bestowing upon anyone!)

Just a couple of things that caught my eye today:

John Commonplacebook, newly returned from one helluva trip, wonders about all of the Enlightenment-bashing that echoes through the halls of academia. I couldn’t agree more with his current position on the matter. There’s a lot to love in postmodern thought–but almost all of it has grown out of the “Romancing of the Enlightenment” that figures like Shelley, Emerson, and Nietzsche first undertook, back in the wondrous nineteenth century. John also has some interesting ideas about Henry James that will doubtless flower into characteristically fine future-posts!

The Wildcat discourses upon Mulholland Dr. (as a particularly fine example of “shrapnel narrative”) and Veitch/Edwards’The Question (as an instance of “sizzling Pop Art Beauty”) in the same post! Yes. Yes.

Good Evening Friends!